Sacramento– Today, Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) introduced AB 542, the Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) Act. This bill expands upon the Federal EKIP program and grants free access to California’s state parks for 4th graders.
“More than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, kids are spending more time than ever before in front of screens instead of being outside,” said Mathis. “The EKIP program provides 4th graders with valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular places that belong to us all, as well as inspire the stewardship of these places for future generations.”
In 2015, President Obama initiated the EKIP program, which enables every 4th grader (or 4th grade equivalent) to attend federal parks at no cost. Specifically, the EKIP pass admits the 4th grader and any accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas, or the pass owner and up to three accompanying adults at sites that charge per person. The goal of the EKIP program is to inspire 4th graders nationwide to visit our federal lands and waters, whether it is a backyard city park or a national forest, seashore, or marine sanctuary.
“AB 542 capitalizes and expands on the successes of the EKIP program, and the lasting effect it has on our children, by requiring that the California State Parks system also accept the pass for valid entry,” said Mathis. “California’s State Parks are an integral part of our history and our future. The more we promote access to our state parks, especially within the lives of our children through the EKIP program, the more we can spur an appreciation of the system and the need to maintain it.”
By targeting 4th graders year after year, the program works to ensure every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their federal lands and waters by the time he or she is 11 years old. Overtime, every kid will have been provided the opportunity to visit a national park for free. Numerous states park systems such as New York, Maryland, Indiana, and Wyoming allow a 4th grader to utilize this federal park pass for the same or similar benefits at state parks within their respective state park system.