Celebrate the birth of the National Park Service with fee-free day, activity at Cedar Breaks

ST. GEORGE — Fees at national parks and monuments across the country will be waived Aug. 25 to celebrate the establishment of the National Park Service.

A sign welcomes visitors to Zion National Park at the park’s pedestrian entrance, Zion National Park, Utah, May 13, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service as a bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments.

Today, the NPS manages 419 of what they call “units,” which includes parks, monuments, battlefields, memorials, lake shores, historic sites and more.

According to the National Park Service, the fee-free days are designed to give everyone access to their public lands.

“The fee-free days provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite,” a post from the National Park Service said.

Among the gems, which documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called “America’s best idea,” there are five national parks in Utah and a host of national monuments, cultural and historic sites managed by the National Park Service.

Utah’s five national parks include:

  • Zion National Park, established Nov. 19, 1919.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, established Feb. 25, 1928.
  • Capitol Reef National Park, established Dec. 18, 1971.
  • Canyonlands National Park, established Sept. 12, 1964.
  • Arches National Park, established as a national monument April 12, 1929, with status changed to a national park in 1971.

Zion National Park spokesperson Jeff Axel, said the park service and its employees play an integral role in caring for America’s treasures.

“It has been a thrill to work for the National Park Service for over two decades. In that time, I’ve watched dedicated employees across the country work very hard to care for so many of America’s most special places,” Axel said.

“From amazing views at Zion National Park to precious hidden gems like Timpanogos Cave National Monument, and places that celebrate our shared cultural heritage like Hovenweep National Monument and Golden Spike National Historical Park, our parks and monuments have many inspiring and meaningful stories to discover,” he added.

Views of Cedar Breaks National Monument from the Alpine Loop Trail, Cedar Breaks, Utah, July 25, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

Mark Preiss, director of the Zion Forever Project agreed with Axel.

“As we consider the National Park Service birthday and 104 years of service, in this complicated season it is clear that these places, and the experiences they hold for all of us, are more important to our health and well-being than ever before,” he said.

However, though it is an important anniversary in the park service, Preiss said their focus is less on the birthday and more on how to keep Zion and its programs funded and operational.

“As you know, our park staff are working every day on the front lines to ensure visitor safety while protecting the integrity of the fundamental resources of Zion National Park for generations to come. Frankly, in this complicated time, we are not thinking about the park’s birthday, we’re focused on sustaining the mission of the park through the partnerships and projects we have developed as the park’s official nonprofit partner since 1929,” Preiss said.

Other than waiving entrance fees, Zion is not hosting any special activities related to the park service’s birthday, but, Axel said, staff have been hard at work helping guests gain better access to the park as they continue with the phased reopening following the park’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The staff is focused on supporting the current operation so that the park can continue expanding opportunities for the public, such as the reopening of South Campground and opening Kolob Canyons for day use,” Axel said.

Views of hoodoos on the Mossy Cave Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, June 20, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

While entrance fees will be waived, guests of the park will still need to purchase shuttle reservations to access the Main Canyon scenic drive portion of the park.

The entrance fee waiver for fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours in any of the national parks or other park service sites.

Though Zion will not be hosting activities, members of the Zion National Park Forever Project staff and board will be at Cedar Breaks National Monument that day to celebrate and work on efforts to secure the rest of the funding to build a new visitor contact station at the monument.

“We’ll be up at Cedar Breaks National Monument inviting visitors to join our ‘Enhance the View’ campaign to build a visitor contact station to serve as base camp for its award-winning dark skies programs, a wildflower festival and daily ranger talks, along with other high elevation recreational activities in one of the most accessible high alpine experiences in the National Park Service,” Preiss, said.

In lieu of park fees, visitors will be encouraged to donate to the visitor contact center project fund. Learn the story of Cedar Breaks National Monument here.

Following the commemoration of the National Park Service’s establishment, there will be two other fee-free days in national parks and monuments for this year.

Other fee-free days in 2020:

To learn more about the park service’s birthday or to find a park nearby, click here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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