National Parks: Buy Your Senior Pass Before The Price Increase

National Park Service logoPopular summertime activities include visiting and camping in national parks. The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) operates the nation’s 417 sites. The sites include 129 historical parks or sites, 87 national monuments, 59 national parks, 25 battlefields or military parks, 19 preserves, 18 recreation areas, 10 seashores, four parkways, four lake shores, and two reserves.

The NPS sells lifetime passes for seniors (age 62 or older) which provide access to more than 2,000 parks and recreation sites nationwide.  Six agencies participate in the Interagency Pass Program: National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So, a senior pass provides reduced-cost access to lots of places.

The senior pass is also a bargain since the pass holder can use it plus accompanying passengers is a single, private, non-commercial vehicle. However, the price of a senior pass will rise on August 28 from $10.00 to $80.00 (plus a $10.00 processing fee). Yes, that is a 700 percent price increase!

U.S. citizens or permanent residents can buy passes. There are three ways to buy senior passes:

Applicants must provide documentation proving citizenship and age. See the Frequently Asked Questions: Recreational Passes page (USGS site) for additional information, including forms of acceptable documentation. Within the parks and recreational sites, there may be additional fees for special services (e.g., camping, swimming, boat launch, specialized interpretive services). The senior pass may provide a 50 percent discount on these fees, but does not cover fees charged by concession stands.

Not a senior? Besides standard annual passes ($80.00 each), the NPS offers a variety of annual passes: free passes for military members and their dependents, passes for 4th grade students, free passes for persons with disabilities, and free passes for volunteers.

For Dorchester residents, there are several nearby parks and recreation sites:

  • Boston National Historical Park, including the 2.5 mile (4 km) Freedom Trail®
  • Boston African American National Historic Site is located in historic Beacon Hill in downtown Boston
  • Boston Harbor Islands includes 34 islands (e.g., Georges, Spectacle, Thompson, Lovells, Peddocks, Bumpkin, etc.) and peninsulas covering more than 50 square miles. Visit historic lighthouses, explore tide pools, hike lush trails, camp under the stars, or enjoy some of the fishing, picnicking, or swimming spots.

To find more sites, use the park search finder. Another nearby site is the Adams National Historic Park in Quincy, Massachusetts. The park includes the birthplaces of two presidents, the “summer White House,” Stone Library, the Adams Carriage House, and 13 acres of a historic landscapes. Guided tours (April 19 – November 10) start at the visitor center (1250 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA), where senior, military, and 4th grade recreational passes can also be purchased in person.

I bought my senior pass at the Adams park in Quincy. It was fast, easy, and convenient — and I avoided the $10.00 processing fee. If you need a pass quickly, buying in person seems best. The visitor center is directly across the street from the Quincy Center station on the Braintree branch of the MBTA Red Line. There is plenty of free parking nearby.

More Free Summertime Events In Boston

A prior post listed several free events this summer both in Dorchester and around Boston. Today’s post provides more:

Girls’ Night At Franklin Park Zoo
Free admission for girls ages 6 to 18
July 15 – 11:00 am
Advance registration required

Pilgrimage to Huế
Fields Corner Branch, Boston Public Library
Daily from July 13 to 31
Description: Of Spirits, Rituals, and Trances showcases an annual festival called Điện Hòn Chén in Huế, Việt Nam. The festival is considered one of the largest gatherings to celebrate Đạo Mẫu, a religion indigenous to Việt Nam that centers around the worship of a Mother Goddess. The photographs featured in this exhibition helps connect us with a world beyond the grave as spirits converge in central Việt Nam. And: a tale of escape, loss, and the afterlife.
Artist Bio: Ngoc-Tran Vu is a Vietnamese American transnational and multimedia artist, organizer, and healer. She was born in Sài Gòn, Việt Nam and raised in the Dorchester and South Boston,

2017 Free Shakespeare on the Common
“Romeo & Juliet” By William Shakespeare
Directed by Allegra Libonati
July 19 to August 6
At the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common
Performances start promptly at 8:00 pm. There will also be a 3:00 pm matinee performance on Saturday, August 5. To learn more, visit the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company website.

Author Talk: Matt Tavares
Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library
July 20 at 1:00 pm
Children’s author and illustrator Matt Tavares, creator of “Growing up Pedro,” “Zachary’s Ball,” “Becoming Babe Ruth,” and more visits the Codman Square Branch. Recommended for ages 5 to 17. Note: this event is limited to 25 children. Each child will receive one copy of “Growing Up Pedro.” Advance registration required. Call the branch to register: 617-436-8214.

Girls Night At Boston Bowl
Boston Bowl, 820 Morrissey Blvd.
July 25 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Free bowling for girls ages 6 – 18
Advance registration required

Historic New England: Summer In The City
Fields Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library
August 7 at 10:30 am
Description: Historic New England invites students to explore the diverse architecture of Boston this summer from a modern glass skyscraper to a seventeenth century wooden house. Join us as we explore all the unique shapes, styles, and materials that create a city. Using Historic New England properties and city buildings, students will identify geometric shapes, discuss design and building techniques, and use a paper shape to make a cityscape to take with them. This program also encourages students to think about what a city needs in relationship to the environment and growing population.

Mayor Walsh’s Movie Night
Town Field, 1545 Dorchester Ave
August 10 at 7:30 pm
Film: “Shaun The Sheep”
Description: This event is presented by the Boston Parks & Recreation Department and Northeastern University, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment. Learn more.