Fort Vancouver is hub for free passes for military families

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter


Updated: May 21, 2012, 5:45 PM


If you go

Federally managed sites in Southwest Washington where the military family pass (or any interagency pass) can be used include:

Mount St. Helens' Johnston Ridge Observatory

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Gifford Pinchot National Forest day-use areas and trailheads

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area trailheads

Did you know?

The U.S. Cavalry served as the first park rangers until the National Park Service was created in 1916.

The standard annual interagency pass is available at Fort Vancouver for $80 (cash only); the lifetime senior pass (62 and older) is $10.

Fort Vancouver is planning to be the area’s distribution hub for a new pass giving military families free access to all 397 national parks.

The program began last weekend, as part of Saturday’s national observance of Armed Forces Day.

The military family pass joins several other interagency passes providing access to more than 2,000 recreation sites and public lands, including several in Southwest Washington.

The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is an appropriate place for military families to obtain their annual passes, for reasons of heritage as well as access, Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said.

Fort Vancouver, the only national park in the Portland-Vancouver area, is easily reached via Interstate 5.

Like many other national parks, Fort Vancouver has a strong military connection. The park service safeguards many of our nation’s most significant military sites — historic forts, battlefields and cemeteries, Fortmann said.

“We are truly honored to serve as the storytellers and historians to keep these places and histories alive for Americans today and tomorrow,” Fortmann said.

“The connection between the military and national parks is especially evident here at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site,” said Greg Shine, chief ranger and historian. “One of the reasons that Congress established this national park was to preserve and interpret the establishment of the U.S. Army’s Vancouver Barracks.”

The military link is still important, Shine added, particularly as the park service prepares to acquire the East and South Vancouver Barracks.

The pass is for active-duty members of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and activated National Guard and Reserves and their dependents.

Available at fort and refuge

Passes are available at the reconstructed Hudson’s Bay stockade, just south of East Fifth Street, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. A current military identification card is required.

Passes also are available at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge’s Carty Unit, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The military family pass permits free entrance to sites managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

While the pass is not available to veterans and military retirees, many of them are eligible for other discounted passes, including the $10 lifetime senior pass.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558;;