Feds increase price of senior pass

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While Social Security’s cost-of-living increase for 2017 was 0.3 percent, the federal government is about to raise the price of a lifetime senior pass (for those ages 62 or older) by 700 percent — from $10 to $80.

For those with current senior passes, they do not need to do anything. The current passes will continue to be valid and honored.

The senior pass grants admission to multiple federal recreational facilities. National parks are the most well known, but many other sites, including national forests and U.S. Wildlife Refuges, accept the pass for admission fees. Other agencies that use the pass include the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The new price, which the Centennial Legislation (P.L. 114-289) authorized, is effective Aug. 28. To mitigate the price increase, the park service and other agencies note that the last increase in the senior pass cost was in 1994, and is now equal to the cost of the annual America the Beautiful: The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass of $80.

Rather than the lifetime pass, the federal government is also offering an annual senior pass for $20. It is valid for one year from the date of purchase. After buying four annual passes, a senior may trade those for one new lifetime pass.

The senior pass admits the pass owner and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas and the pass owner plus three adults where per-person fees are charged. (Children under age 16 are always admitted free.)

The current senior pass and the new $80 senior pass are available at the San Jacinto Ranger District Office in Idyllwild or any of the other San Bernardino National Forest offices, South Coast BLM Field Office in Palm Springs (760-833-7100), California Desert BLM District Office Moreno Valley (951-697-5200) or any of the National Park Service or national forest offices in California.

Passes also can be purchased online or through the mail from USGS; an additional $10 processing fee will be added to the price.

Public lands and the USGS website that sells senior passes have been overwhelmed with requests to purchase senior passes — more than 250,000 online and mail-in applications so far this year, compared to the previous high of 33,000 passes in one year.

To help address the demand, the federal government says it is printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of passes to the sites that sell passes. Also, temporary staff has been increased at the online processing center to assist with the backlog of order requests and a third-party solution was implemented to make ordering easier and more efficient.

The National Park Service and the five other land-management agencies that honor the pass will accept the order confirmation generated from the online sale of the pass as proof-of-pass ownership until the backlog is cleared.

Eligible visitors who purchase a senior pass online can now bring their order confirmation, along with a photo ID, to one of the more than 2,000 sites and parks that accept the pass.

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