WASHINGTON (AP) _ Vacationers who want to tour as many of the national parks as possible this summer have a new way to save money.

The National Park Service on Tuesday began offering a new $50 ``National Park Pass'' that allows people access to any national park that charges an admission fee. The pass is good for one year.

It costs between $2 and $10 to get into many of the national park units and as much as $20 to visit some of the most popular parks such as the Grand Canyon. Visitors can be charged either by the carload or individually.

If the park charges by vehicle, the pass exempts only one vehicle. If the park charges by person, the pass admits only the purchaser, spouse, children and parents.

A ``pop-out map'' of the 379 national parks, monuments, seashores and historic areas is included with the purchase.

The new park pass was approved by Congress as a way to reduce the cost for those who plan to make frequent visits or plan extensive tours of the park system.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., said the National Park Service expects to sell 485,000 of the passes this year and as many as 1 million a year in coming years. He said the new passes could raise $160 million for the park system.

The new pass also ``gives Americans a special connection to their parks,'' said the National Park Foundation, a group charged by Congress to help park fund-raising activities.

Each year the pass will feature a different park. The inaugural pass features a scene from Yellowstone National Park.


On The Net: http://www.nationalparks.org/pass.html