John Muir High School alumni Rosie Pepito is on a mission. 

“I want to challenge every John Muir High School alumni here in Pasadena and anyone else 62 and older to get their federal senior pass and visit a national park. I also want to encourage any parent or grandparent of a fourth- grader to help them get their free ‘Every Kid in a Park’ annual pass,” Pepito said.

Pepito is a member of the Muir Class of 1971. She is currently the superintendent of Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, which encompasses over one million acres and borders Grand Canyon National Park. 

“Last year when I was visiting high school friends we were talking about 2015 as the year we would all turn 62,” Pepito recalled. “The National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016 and the theme is ‘Find Your Park.’ To celebrate, we went on a road trip to get our senior passes at a national park. It was so much fun we decided to challenge all John Muir High School alumni who were at least 62 to get their senior passes.”  

Pepito’s father, who served in the Army at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg in ordnance command, wanted his daughter to see the nation’s heritage. “It was 1963. I was in fourth grade and my father took us to Washington, DC. I still to this day remember standing at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and being in awe. The monuments I saw and the interpretive rangers I talked to left an impression.” 

It was a geology field trip to Yosemite National Park during college that set Pepito on a career with the National Park Service. 

“The minute we drove through the Wawona Tunnel and the Yosemite Valley opened up in front of me, it just took my breath away. I was hooked. It was the same feeling I had at the Lincoln Memorial as a child,” she said.

The passes that Pepito wants others to be aware of are two of several different federal recreation passes.

The senior pass is for those who are at least 62 years old and a US citizen or permanent resident. Currently $10 when purchased in person, the pass is good for life. The pass waives entrance fees for the cardholder at federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The cardholder receives discounts on cave tours, camp sites, boat launches, and other federal user fees. 

Not all parks sell the pass, such as Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, due to the fact that it doesn’t have an entrance fee. 

Folks in the Pasadena area can get their senior pass at nearby Joshua Tree National Park, Cabrillo National Monument, or the Forest Service office in Arcadia. For more details see www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

For fourth graders to get the “Every Kid in a Park” pass, that journey starts online at everykidinapark.gov where the child downloads and prints a paper pass to be exchanged at a park where they get a plastic card. This one-year pass allows the child free entry to the same federal areas as the senior pass. The child’s family and friends can get in free too if they are in the same passenger car. Up to three adults with the fourth-grader can get in free at parks that charge a per person entrance fee. 

The “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park” campaigns celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Pasadena was selected as the site of the national kick off on Jan. 1 at the Rose Parade. Filmmaker Ken Burns was the parade grand marshal in part for his 2009 documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” The parade theme was Find Your Adventure, in collaboration with the NPS centennial. 

“My hope is that others can find their own park, no matter what their age, and have a powerful experience,” said Pepito. “Your visit to a park may only take a day but could be remembered for a lifetime. n


Jeff Axel is a park ranger and publications specialist for the National Park Service.