As Cathy Morin neared her 62nd birthday last month, she knew she was just about to qualify for one of the country’s best bargains. For just $10, senior citizens can buy passes that give them lifetime entry to national parks and other public lands as well as discounts on campgrounds and other amenities.
Around her birthday, she learned that she’d have to move quickly to take advantage of that deal. The pass has cost $10 since 1994, but in December, Congress voted to increase the price to $80. On July 10, in the middle of their busiest season, the National Park Service announced the new price would start on August 28. So at the end of July, Morin hustled over to a U.S. Forest Service office about 10 miles away from her home, Conejos Peak Ranger District, which is part of the Rio Grande National Forest in southwestern Colorado. “You might as well save $70,” says Morin, a retired former hospital worker. “Once you’re retired and on a limited income, that looks like a really good deal.”
She’s one of about 2.5 million Americans who are expected to get the passes at the lower rate this year, more than three times the number who bought them last year, according to Kathy Kupper, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.
Most seniors get the passes at a national park they are visiting. But seniors can apply online or by mail too (there’s an extra $10 processing fee). As the days tick down to the deadline, demand has surged. On any given day last year, public land agencies received about 100 online applications. Now they’re getting about 10,000…
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