Nevada expands free parks passes for elementary students
GENOA — Nevada students ages 9 to 11 can play at state parks for free beginning in July under a law Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Friday that will give fifth-graders free entry to all state parks and recreational areas for one year.
The measure builds on a federal program that allows fourth-graders to apply for free admission to all national parks as well as Nevada state parks.
“I told my parents about it,” fourth-grader Ella Girdner, 9, said after the signing. “They said that they wanted to go more.”
She was among the nearly 100 students in grades 2-5 who field tripped to meet the governor and witness the bill signing.
Sandoval gave final approval to Assembly Bill 385 at Mormon Station about 15 miles south of the Nevada Capitol — one of four state parks with no entry fee.
Day passes at about 20 other state parks across Nevada cost between $7 and $12.
Nevada officials plan to mail park passes to students in or entering fifth grade who ask for them, with few strings attached, State Parks Administrator Eric Johnson said. The federal program requires fourth-graders to take an online parks test to qualify for a pass and then pick it up in person.
“Ours is easier,” Johnson said.
Bill sponsor Assemblyman Steve Yeager said the passes will be valid for students and anyone who accompanies them to a state park.
The bill grabbed headlines and notoriety at the Legislature in March when a class of western Las Vegas fifth-grade students, providing only their first names, wrote to lawmakers applauding the bill.
“Some people don’t understand that this is important for people who cannot afford a pass,” one student named Colin wrote. “My family has a hard time paying for things because it’s just My mom, sister, and I.”
Parks officials will write rules specifying the application process including proof of qualification, when the passes can be used and the circumstances under which students’ friends and family can benefit.
Legislative analysts have said providing the free admission will have no significant negative fiscal impact.