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The National Parks Set for a Second Century

The National Parks, a key part of the United States' cultural and historical foundation, play a vital role in the tourism industry. After celebrating 100 years in 2016, the National Parks are set to meet the challenges of its second century of stewardship, thanks to the National Park Service Centennial Act.

The act was a bipartisan effort by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 16. It provides the National Park Service with new resources to help it engage visitors, embrace new technologies and address a $12 billion needed for maintenance.

A few key provisions of the legislation include:

  • Creation of the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund to use funding and matching donations to support projects and programs furthering the National Park Service's mission and the enhancement of visitor experiences.
  • An amendment to the 1998 Concessions Act to allow the Secretary of the Interior to "amend the applicable terms of an existing concessions contract to provide new and additional services" to enhance public use and enjoyment of the units of the National Park System.
  • A new Visitor Experience Improvements Authority, which could expand visitor services at units that are now under-visited.

Additionally, congress eliminated proposed new taxes on in-park concessioner-provided lodging and other goods and services that would not have been used to support park operations in the units generating the funds.

The legislation also increases the price of a lifetime Senior Pass for individuals 62 and older from $10 to $80. Seniors could purchase an annual pass, however, for $20.

Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.


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