Five things you need to know about National Park Week

The BSA has a long-standing relationship with the National Park Service.

It makes sense, because the two organizations have a lot of things in common — namely, a desire to get more people outdoors. And besides that, Scouting has ties to both the first national park and the newest (and many of the ones that arrived in between).

“I would be hard-pressed to find a finer or more collaborative organization to work with,” says George McDonald, the chief of youth programs for the park service. “The Scouts, through their thousands of service projects and collaborative engagement activities with the National Park Service, are textbook examples of American excellence and service to country.”

While the upcoming National Park Week is for everyone, here are five things Scouts and their families need to know to take advantage of this alliance.

One day will offer no admission fees

National Park Week runs April 16-24, during which the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation invite everyone to “celebrate America’s treasured places.”

There are 400 national parks, so find one close to you and take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate one of our nation’s treasures, even if that means just stopping by for a short amount of time to check things out.

If you’ve got some time to spare on April 16, that’s the day you can get in with no entrance fee. If you have a unit meeting scheduled for that day, we just found the perfect location for you.

Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Getty Images

There are lots of things for Scouts to do at national parks

At the top of the list is the Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger Program, open to Cub Scouts and members of Scouts BSA.

The Scout Ranger Program (we wrote about it last year) provides Scouts the opportunity to earn certificates and patches for participating in service projects and educational programs.

To earn a Scout Ranger certificate, Scouts must participate in organized education activities and/or volunteer service projects for a minimum of five hours at one or more national parks. To earn a Scout Ranger patch, Scouts must participate in organized educational activities or volunteer service projects for a minimum of 10 hours at one or more national parks.

Note that these activities don’t have to be done during National Park Week. Anytime is the right time to visit a national park.

The Scout Ranger Program isn’t the only way for Scouts to engage at national parks

Many national parks offer special opportunities for Scouts that are only available at that location, often in partnership with the local BSA council. Click here for a list of parks with opportunities specifically designed for Scouts.

Eagle Scouts are eligible to receive a special certificate of recognition from the NPS. Click here to get yours.

Even if you aren’t participating in a program specially designed for Scouts, just visiting a park for a hike, picnic or a short sightseeing trip is a great way to spend a few hours outdoors.

Glacier National Park. Photo by Getty Images

The Every Kid Outdoors program is a free pass for fourth-grade Webelos

One of the many things the NPS has in common with the BSA is a desire to get more youth outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors initiative is designed to do just that, making it significantly easier for fourth-graders and their families to get out and go.

The Every Kid Outdoors pass gives fourth-graders — along with one car full of family and friends — one day of free access to our national parks, lands, waters and historic sites.

You can bike through a forest. You can walk in a desert. You might even be able to see a whale burst through the ocean’s surface.

All for free!

There are three more chances to get into national parks for free this year

The first entrance fee-free date was January 17, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The second is April 16.

If you missed the first one and can’t make the second, have no fear — three more dates will soon be here.

  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 24: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

About Aaron Derr 448 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.