All Americans encouraged to visit a national park this year

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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Jan. 5 that National Park Service officials will waive admission fees on 17 selected dates throughout 2011 and encouraged all Americans to make a New Year's resolution to visit a national park this year.

"Many people have made resolutions to spend more quality time with loved ones and to get outdoors and unplug in 2011," Secretary Salazar said. "There's no better place than a national park to help keep those resolutions. Parks offer superb recreational opportunities, making them perfect places to enjoy our beautiful land, history and culture, and nurture a healthy lifestyle."

Secretary Salazar noted that with 394 national parks throughout the country, most Americans live within a few hours of a park, making them places for easy and affordable vacations any time of the year.

"In these tough economic times, our fee-free days will give families many opportunities to enjoy our nation's heritage and natural beauty in meaningful and affordable ways," he said.

The 2011 fee-free dates will be:

Jan. 15-17 -- The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

April 16-24 -- National Park Week

June 21 -- The first day of summer

Sept. 24 -- National Public Lands Day and

Nov. 11-13 -- Veterans Day.

The first fee free days are centered on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

"Visitors can literally walk in Dr. King's footsteps at national parks such as Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, or the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.," said Jonathan Jarvis, the National Park Service director. "They are just a few of the dozens of national parks which trace the history of African Americans.

"Several parks will also honor Dr. King by hosting volunteer projects for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 17," Mr. Jarvis added. "It is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, a day on, not a day off."

Many national park concessions also will offer discounts on fee-free days, saving visitors money on food, lodging, tours and souvenirs.

More information is available at

(Courtesy of the Department of the Interior News Service)