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National parks: What's new?

It'll cost you a little bit more this year to visit some of our national parks, but you'll also get a little more for your money - new visitor centers, new exhibits, museums and other facilities.

It'll cost you a little bit more this year to visit some of our national parks, but you'll also get a little more for your money - new visitor centers, new exhibits, museums and other facilities.

No blockbuster sites are being introduced this year, but the National Park Service is sprucing up some preserves and expanding visitor access to others.

In Little Rock, Ark., a visitor center will open at the Central High School National Historic Site in September. The opening will mark the 50th anniversary of the day in 1957 when nine black students tried to register at the school, but were met with such stiff resistance that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to send in federal troops.

In the east, a Destination Center will open in the fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A mile from the Park Service's Folk Arts Center in Asheville, N.C., the center will feature Eye World, a sliding computer that highlights interesting places as it passes over a parkway map.

Out west, Grand Teton National Park will unveil a Discovery and Visitor Center in mid-August that will provide "stunning views of the Tetons through floor-to-ceiling picture windows," said Gerry Gaumer of the Park Service.

Also opening at Grand Teton is the onetime ranch and private retreat of Laurence S. Rockefeller. Visitors to the 1,106-acre preserve will have hiking trails to explore the forests, streams and Phelps Lake.

For the first time, tourists will be able to drive up to a missile silo this summer. On weekday mornings, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota will allow visitors to see a training missile on display. Twice-daily regular tours will take visitors into the underground launch control center; reservations are required.

At Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road, a free shuttle system starts July 1. Visitors will be able to get on and off at various stops, avoiding traffic and parking problems. In addition to exhibits, Glacier's Transit Center will have interactive kiosks providing e-hikes and e-tours for self-planners.

Only one new park opens this year - the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, southeast of Denver. It opened last week, but there's little to see. The site is where federal troops raided an Indian encampment in 1864, killing at least 150, most of them women and children.

Fees will be increased at only 13 of the 390 parks in the system; the increase will be no more than $5 per person and $5 per carload, the Park Service says.

The price of its annual pass is increasing from $65 to $80. The pass provides entry to land managed by five agencies: the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation. Golden Age and Access passes will continue to be honored for the passholder's lifetime. New interagency versions of those passes will still cost $10 for Golden Age and be free for Access.

Though it's outside the national park, Skywalk, a glass walkway cantilevered out over the Grand Canyon, opened in March. It's part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation tourist complex at the western end of the Grand Canyon.

Other park developments:

Boston National Historical Park, Massachusetts. The Bunker Hill Museum is scheduled to open next month. Bunker Hill Monument reopened last month after an 11-month rehab.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. New exhibits include a re-created log-cabin parade float, a teamster's wagon, a photographer's camera, and a model of 1860 Springfield.

Homestead National Monument, Nebraska. The grand opening of a heritage center will coincide with the 145th anniversary of homesteading on May 20.

National Park Service

For information, call

202-208-4747 or go to