For the first time, Juneteenth is a free entry day at national parks

The Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State," but it didn't free everyone. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, that the last enslaved peoples in Texas were finally freed. The historic date became known as Juneteenth and officially became a federal holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day, in 2021. This year, for the first time, it's also a free entry day at America's national parks.

Each year in recent years, the National Park Service has waived entry fees on a handful of dates like the first day of National Park Week and Veterans Day. In announcing this year's dates, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said, “The entrance fee-free days expand opportunities for people to visit their national parks and experience the beauty and history of our country.”

The Park Service is committed to preserving that history, even when it's not beautiful. Visitors can learn more during special Juneteenth commemorations this week and all year long at parks across the country.

A historic marker at Reconstruction Era National Historical Park in Beaufort, South Carolina commemorates the Jan. 1, 1863 reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at what was then a plantation.
A historic marker at Reconstruction Era National Historical Park in Beaufort, South Carolina commemorates the Jan. 1, 1863 reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at what was then a plantation.

National park free entry days for 2024

There are four more chances to visit national parks for free this year, including Juneteenth:

  • June 19 - Juneteenth

  • Aug. 4 – Great American Outdoors Day

  • Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day

  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day

Fees for parking and activities like camping and fishing remain even when entry fees are waived. Additionally, parks operated in partnership with outside parties may charge other types of fees. For instance, Waco Mammoth charges an access fee for its dig shelter. Visitors can find site-specific details on park websites.

Most of the 429 units within the National Park System don't charge entry fees. Those that do charge up to $20 per person or up to $35 per vehicle.

Certain groups like military service members, veterans, and U.S. citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities are eligible for free entry any time of year. Fourth graders and their families are also eligible for free park visits through the Every Kid Outdoors program.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: National parks are free to visit on Juneteenth

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