New program allows free use of county parks for veterans

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 today to adopt a program to allow certain military veterans free use of county parks and campgrounds, as a way to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

The county's program will be similar to the state's Distinguished Veteran Pass, which provides free access to state facilities. Honorably discharged veterans who live in California and were wounded or held prisoner during their military service, or who are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, are entitled to free camping, day use and private boat use at state parks.

Veterans who qualify for the state pass will be eligible for the use of county regional parks and campsites at no cost.

“This a very special group of veterans that would pay nothing to access our county parks and campsites, and why would we do this, because they've already sacrificed so very much,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.

More than 230,000 veterans call San Diego County home, and the military is a vital part of the county's history, economy and culture, according to Jacob.

Nearly 23,000 California residents have distinguished veterans status. The state estimated each Distinguished Veteran Pass was used 13 time a year for day use and six times a year for camping, Jacob said.  In 2010, veterans spent more than 4,000 nights camping at state parks in San Diego county, she said.

“Wounded veterans, former POWs and Medal of Honor recipients make up a special class of veterans. Their contributions and their remarkable stories of bravery and loss remind us that we can never pay veterans enough,” Jacob said. ” All the free park passes in the world will not do justice to these selfless men and women.”

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