Chesterton Tribune



Veterans and Gold Star families to have free access to national parks thanks to Indiana Dunes National Park employee

Back To Front Page


On Aug. 19, during a visit to Indiana Dunes National Park, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt met with employees for a question-and-answer session.

During that Q&A, Fee Program Supervisor Ryan Koepke asked Bernhardt why there wasn’t a free pass to the national parks for military veterans. Bernhardt liked the question, and in subsequent testimony the Department of the Interior urged Congress to add veterans to a proposed bill which would allow free access to federal parklands for Gold Star families.

Congress agreed, and beginning this Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, all military veterans and Gold Star families will have free access to approximately 2,000 federal public locations spread across more than 400 million acres of public lands.

When asked why he suggested free access to veterans, Koepke said, “I and other park staff believe that a free pass into a national park is the least we should be doing for people who have served our country in the military.

“Plus, it’s very personal for me since I have family members who have served, including my grandfather, Robert Kellenberger; father, Ricky Koepke; uncle, William Kellenberger; and a nephew, Gage Koepke, who is serving now.”

“This new pass is a  terrific outcome thanks to Ryan’s question to the Secretary and it will benefit veterans for generations to come,” said Paul Labovitz, superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Park.

For the purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as someone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification: Department of Defense ID card; Veteran Health ID card; Veteran ID card or a veteran’s designation on a state-issued driver’s license or ID card. The pass covers entrance fees at all national parks and other federal lands.

It does not include camping or some other expanded amenity fees and is not accepted at state parks.


Posted 11/10/20




Search This Site:

Custom Search