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$50 buys passport to national parks

With some parks charging $20 per vehicle, the yearlong pass can be a bargain for a traveling family. As a bonus, the proceeds will be used for improvements at the parks.

Outdoors lovers could have a new status symbol.

The National Parks Pass, good for admission to the more than 170 National Park Service sites that charge admission, has gone on sale.

Costing $50 and good for one year from the date of purchase, the pass admits the bearer and traveling companions in a car or camper into national parks such as Grand Canyon or Yosemite (each normally $20 per vehicle).

"For a family driving out West to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton with stops at other parks along the way, the pass is a real bargain over paying entry fees at each park," said Jerry Belson, Park Service Southeast regional director.

But the Park Service is also pitching the pass as a way for Americans to show their stewardship of the 379 park sites from sea to shining sea. The pass is projected to raise $168-million in new revenue over the next five years, most of it to be plowed into Park Service improvement projects.

Passes may be purchased online at http://www.nationalparks.org, by calling (888) 467-2757, at select Park Service sites or through retail partners such as AAA, L.L. Bean and REI.

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