INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL PARK: On August 19, Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, visited Indiana Dunes National Park during a tour of the Midwest. In addition to learning about possible projects that could be funded through the Great American Outdoors Act, he wanted to meet with park employees for a question and answer session. During the session, Ryan Koepke, the park’s Fee Program Supervisor, asked why there wasn’t a free pass to the national parks for military veterans. Mr. Koepke’s question prompted the Department to testify to Congress that veterans should be added to a proposed bill that would allow free access to federal parklands for Gold Star families. Congress agreed and beginning this Veterans Day, November 11th, 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 for veterans, Mr. Koepke said, “Me 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.” Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz commented, “This new pass is a terrific outcome thanks to Ryan’s question to the Secretary and it will benefit veterans for generations to come.”  

For purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as someone who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification: Department of Defense Identification Card, Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC), Veteran ID Card or a Veteran’s designation on a state-issued driver’s license or identification 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.  

For more information on National Park passes and fees or for information on Indiana Dunes National Park, contact the park’s information desk at 219-395-1882 or go to the web page at