Starting this fall, fourth graders and their families can visit any of the United States' 59 national parks for free. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil Thursday his Every Kid in a Park initiative in an effort to get more young people off their phones and out the door, the Washington Post reported. The program will launch at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, which overlaps with the National Parks Service's 100th birthday.
Family annual passes for national park admission usually cost $80, but under Obama's plan, roughly 4 million 9- and 10-year-olds and their families won't have to pay for access to federal lands and waters. The White House will help parents plan trips to nearby parks and provide educational tools like field trip guides and science labs, according to a news release. Low-income schools can apply for transportation grants through Every Kid in a Park, as well.
Obama will debut the initiative Thursday when he announces three new national monuments: the Pullman Historic District in Chicago, Browns Canyon in Colorado, and a former Honouliuli internment campsite in Hawaii. Obama has previously created 13 national monuments to protect historically important areas. "What we want to ensure, and what the president has focused on, is that all Americans, and the great diversity of Americans, both have the opportunity to access these important places and can experience them," presidential counselor John D. Podesta told the Washington Post in October.
Obama's proposed 2016 budget had similar themes. He requested $45 million in funding for Department of the Interior youth engagement programs, with about half of that earmarked for parks service projects to attract low-income 9- and 10-year-olds.
According to National Geographic, the best national parks spots for children include Yellowstone in Wyoming, the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.