Two Congressmen have penned a letter to the National Park Service on behalf of military members and veterans. They ask that they be prioritized in lottery draws for entrance into various parks. Congressman Ben Cline, a Republican from Virginia, and Congressman Chris Pappas, a Democrat from New Hampshire, wrote the bipartisan plea. They addressed the letter to Charles Sams, director of the National Park Service.
The letter requested that the NPS issue a policy that prioritizes active-duty military, families, and veterans in the parks’ lotteries. These servicemembers, families, and veterans already receive free admission to America’s National Parks. Now, Cline and Pappas want them first in line for the lottery.
The NPS has a lottery system in place for high-trafficked trails and parks in order to limit crowds. There are lotteries available on Recreation.gov for places like the Coyote Buttes at the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. These lotteries fill up fast, and some people don’t get a chance to enter. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to the park. It just limits the natural attractions.
According to Recreation.gov, the lotteries are “based on a fair and randomized distribution system to manage access and ensure equitable participation.” Some critics argue that prioritizing certain people would defeat the purpose of a lottery system. Nevertheless, 22 Representatives signed the letter.
What the Letter is Actually Asking of the National Park Service
The letter brings to Director Charles Sams’ attention “how these lottery systems affect our active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans.” The letter mentions the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act. This act grants free admission to all US National Parks for veterans, active-duty service members, and Gold Star families. It then claims, “Even though these groups already have free access to National Parks, there are not spots reserved in these lottery systems for them, often resulting in them not being selected.”
Cline and Pappas’ letter asks, “how many national park units institute a lottery system restricting access to certain portions of the park,” “how many national park units require pre-registration and/or a fee to enter the lottery system,” and “how many active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans annually attend any of the national park units.”
Additionally, in the final paragraphs, the letter states, “We request that the National Park Service institute a policy for lottery systems that would set aside a portion of the lottery selections to be reserved for active-duty military (personnel and dependents), Gold Star families, and Veterans.”
With a total of 24 signatures, Cline and Pappas request a response “no later than October 24th, 2022.” Representatives signed the letter on Oct. 9, and there is no word of Director Charles Sams’ response as yet.