BAR HARBOR — America’s military veterans and Gold Star Families, those who have lost a loved one in combat, will have free lifetime entry to Acadia and all of the country’s national parks, thanks to an order signed recently by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
His order, which went into effect Veterans Day, was prompted by a bill that would provide free park access to Gold Star Families, which was introduced earlier this year by Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King and Congressman Jared Golden at the suggestion of a Hancock County constituent.
“America’s Gold Star Families have made unimaginable sacrifices for the safety of our country, and we should do everything possible to help them heal,” King said.
“America’s public lands are among the most beautiful natural wonders in the world…The families of those who’ve lost a loved one in defense of our nation should be able to have access to these treasures free of charge.
“I’m grateful that [the secretary’s] order will open these lands, and hopeful that my legislation with Congressman Golden will pass through Congress soon so this initiative will be enacted into law.”
Golden said that making national parks and other public lands open free of charge to Gold Star Families and veterans is “a small but meaningful way to express our gratitude for their sacrifices.”
The bill that he and King introduced has been passed by the House of Representatives and is making its way through the Senate. It would provide free access to all federally managed public lands including the 62 national parks and 360 other units of the National Park Service, such as national monuments and national historic sites. Many of the parks, including Acadia, charge entrance fees.
David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia, expressed strong support for the bill when King and Golden introduced it.
“Acadia and all our national parks have always been wellsprings of inspiration and solace for the American people,” he said. “We applaud this effort to increase access to the restorative powers of nature and the touchstones of our shared cultural heritage for Gold Star Family members who have endured the hardships and heartaches associated with the sacrifices made by their loved ones to defend this country.”