By Charles Pekow –
You don't have to pay any entrance fee when biking into federal recreational land – as long as a fourth-grader goes with you. President Donald Trump signed into law a comprehensive natural resources management act officially known as the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management & Recreation Act (S. 47) that includes among its provisions, the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which provides that fourth-graders can bike into national parks, wildlife refuges, etc. without paying entrance fees – along with up to three adults as long as they come on bikes too (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/47/text).
The same legislation also contains specific provisions that can expand biking opportunities in Utah's San Rafael Swells and McCoy Flats areas operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). [More about that in the companion piece to this story.]
Each student would have to get a pass, though, which would be good for all American fourth-graders and home-schooled 10-year-olds, starting on Sept. 1 and running through the following August. President Donald Trump signed the law March 21.
The law requires the involved agencies (National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Reclamation, Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, et. al.) to promote the program on their websites. The park service has made it easy by offering a voucher to print that students can take to a park – once they've played a little online game to give them some info on the parks (https://www.nps.gov/kids/features/2015/everyKid.cfm). The can exchange the printed voucher at a park for a more durable pass.
Sounds like a great opportunity to promote youth and family cycling. So what are national bike advocates doing to promote it? Not much, so far. ‘We aren't working in that area currently,” says Saara Snow, travel initiatives coordinator for the Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit that promotes bicycle travel. “That's probably an area we could promote through our tours,” Snow says but adds “it's something we haven't really talked about as an organization.”
People for Bikes helped push the measure into law but thus far hasn't followed up. President Tim Blumenthal told this reporter “I don't know what we're doing now. You make a good point; we probably need to get on it.”
The law gives the affected agencies the option to work with the U.S. Department of Education and outside groups to promote the program. Since 2016, NPS has been allowing passes for students through its Every Kid in a Park pass program, which is now being merged into this new program.
The legislation encourages but does not require state public land agencies to participate and for federal agencies to encourage states to. “Many state park systems honor the Every Kid in a Park Pass, including Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico (in certain locations), New York, and Maryland. Many other state and county parks have adopted the concept for their own use, such as Colorado, Texas, and Michigan,” NPS Public Affairs Specialist Kathy Kupper wrote in an email. “The Every Kid Outdoors Pass will be publicized through a press release, events, websites, partner organizations, and multiple department, agency, and park social media platforms.”
The legislation sunsets the program in seven years. But each agency is required to report to Congress annually on the number of passes it gives and geographical distribution. If the cycling community wants to keep it going, it would sure help to encourage people to use it.