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Free days at U.S. national parks announced

  |   Oct. 17, 2011 at 2:44 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Admission to America's national parks will be free on 17 days in 2012 to encourage people to explore the nation's natural beauty, officials said Monday.

The National Park Service announced next year's free days will be Jan. 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Week), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend), the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a release.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urged Americans to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the country's national parks.

"Whether or not it's during one of the 17 fee-free days next year, I encourage everyone to visit a park near them and enjoy the remarkable landscapes and historical and cultural sites that are unique to our great country," he said.

Hotels, restaurants, gift shops and tour operators in many of the parks will offer specials to coincide with the free-admission days, officials said.

"The majority of national parks don't have an entrance fee and those that do charge a maximum of $25 a week for an entire family," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said.

"We realize there are additional expenses when visiting a park so many associated businesses will have discounts and enhancements on the fee free days."

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