Fee free days for national parks

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Bryan Jarboe -- Scenic view from the San Bernardino mountains.

Fees often hold people back from visiting places they want to see, but in 2012 the National Parks will have 17 fee-free days.

“The goal is to give an incentive for people to come out and enjoy nature, have a positive experience, be healthy and learn. It’s a way to remove one possible barrier to getting out and find new ways to have fun and appreciate their public
lands,” Monica Curiel, volunteer coordinator for the Children’s Forest San Bernardino National Forest Association, said.

The fee-free days for 2012 include: Jan. 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Day), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day) and Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day). One of the closest National Parks to campus is San Jacinto, which boasts a 10,834 feet peak that is second only to Mount Whitney.

“The mountain’s magnificent granite peaks, subalpine forests and fern-bordered mountain meadows offer a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy a scenic, high-country wilderness area,” according to the National Parks website, www. parks.ca.gov.

One of the second closest National Parks is the San Bernardino National Forest with “its unique accessibility to not just the L.A. basin but also the high desert and Mojave. It has all recreational opportunities, lakes, off-highway vehicle trails,  hikes, fishing and a great snow season that is nearby, not too difficult to navigate and fun,” Curiel said.

The other close national parks are Cabrillo National Monument, Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. The fee-free days also extend to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, Seal Beach  National Wildlife Refuge, and Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge to name a few relatively close to Riverside.

Before going to any of these locations, check the website and call for further information. All national forests follow the feefree days but other agencies do not. Most do not give the National Park Day, because it is not their holiday.

“Take every chance you can to come to the forest and find what moves you both physically and emotionally. Hiking is, after all, just walking and it can be one the most rewarding activities. You don’t have to invest a lot of money to get a lot back,” Curiel said.

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