The Biden-Harris administration has announced that starting on Veterans Day (Nov. 11), veterans of the U.S. Armed Services and Gold Star Families can obtain a free lifetime pass to thousands of federal recreation sites spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, is participating in the new pass program and will have passes available at the Mississippi River Visitor Center in Rock Island, the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center in Ottawa, Illinois, and the project offices for Saylorville Lake, Coralville Lake and Lake Red Rock in Iowa, a news release says.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our federal teammates are proud to honor our veterans with free lifetime access to more than 2,500 federal recreation areas across the nation,” said Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general. “This is a small token of appreciation for veterans who have bravely dedicated their lives to defending our freedom.”
The lifetime pass allows for free access to day use areas at USACE-managed sites.
To obtain a lifetime pass when visiting one of the federal recreation sites, veterans can present one of the four forms of acceptable ID: Department of Defense ID Card, Veteran Health ID (VHIC), Veteran ID Card, or veteran’s designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or ID card. The pass also can be obtained here. Gold Star Families can obtain information, self-certify that they qualify, and download a voucher by visiting the U.S. Geological Survey’s online store here.
The Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks Act, passed in December 2021, authorized free lifetime access to federal lands to veterans and Gold Star Families. The new lifetime pass for veterans and Gold Star Families is in addition to the free annual Military Pass, which has been available to active duty service members and their families since Armed Forces Day, May 19, 2012.
Other lifetime passes offered by federal recreational land management agencies include the Senior Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents over age 62 and an Access Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a permanent disability. More information is available here.
USACE also offers fee-free days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration, including the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.; the birthday of USACE; Juneteenth National Independence Day; Veterans Day; and National Public Lands Day.
USACE is one of the leading federal providers of outdoor and water-based recreation, hosting millions of visits annually to its more than 400 lake and river projects. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the USACE-operated recreation areas are within 50 miles of metropolitan areas, offering diverse outdoor activities for all ages close to home.