News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, May 27, 2012
CLARKS HILL LAKE, Ga. -- It was a beautiful day to spend out at the lake this Memorial Day weekend.
A new program through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making it easier for military members to enjoy the parks and the lake. Just last week they started a program to let all active duty military members into day parks for free.
Chad Fitzsimmons is an active duty military member with the US Navy. He and his friends spent the day at Lake Springs park on Clarks Hill Lake.
"Just a fun day at the beach, Memorial weekend, enjoying ourselves," he said.
But he had no idea he could get in for free.
"I had to pay. I didn't know about it, so I had to pay," he said.
And he's not the only one.
"I didn't know about the whole pass thing," said PFC Hilda Ortiz with the U.S. Army.
A new pass program began last week, allowing free admission to all day-use parks for active military members, but the problem is no one knows about it yet.
"I just don't think it's been circulated enough -- the message hasn't gotten out well enough," said gate house volunteer Barry Denison.
"[It's] really important so those soldier those men and women that serve our country can learn that they have an opportunity to come out to the lake and they can keep their money in their pocket, enjoy themselves and know that our nation is grateful," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger David Quebedeaux.
Volunteers say they haven't seen many people take advantage of it even though we found many military members inside the park.
"We have had over the two days about three who have actually presented themselves as active military," Denison said.
They're hoping that will change soon.
"I think it'll be a tremendous boost to the entire park system because I know that I've actually perhaps seen military come through and it'd just be nice to honor them in that way," Denison said.
For Fitzsimmons, it was his first time at the lake, but now that he know he can get in for free, he says he will definitely be back.
"It's really cool, it's really cool that they do that," he said. "It shows a lot of people appreciate us and that's why we do it."
This program applies at all day-use parks operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers along with parks that are operated from the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation.
In order to get in they must present an active duty card, active duty dependent card or common access card for active duty members.
This is a nationwide program, so it applies for a lot of places many will travel this summer.