National parks are drawing more visitors this year, thanks partly to a policy of offering free admission on three weekends. In the first half of 2009, national parks reported 127.7 million visits, an increase of 4.5 million visits over the same period in 2008.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, in announcing the increase, noted that parks provide affordable recreation. “Especially when times are tough, our parks and public lands refuel the spirit and help energize local economies,” he said. Park visitors spend an estimated $11 billion each year in communities near parks.