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Many visit park free

no changes planned

April 30, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

Did the woman walking her small dog on a long retractable leash pay her entry fee?

How about the man in athletic attire speed-walking along a paved trail?

What about the two older men sitting in a white car in the parking lot above Burnside Bridge, listening on their car's sound system to a narrator give fact-based information and tell anecdotes about the bloodiest day in American history?

It's estimated that 35 percent to 40 percent of the visitors to Antietam National Battlefield do not enter the park's visitors center to pay the required entry fee - $4 per person or $6 per family.

J.W. Howard, superintendent of the park, said there are no plans to begin a more stringent collection policy, which would require setting up and staffing fee collection stations at four of the park's six entry points.

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"It would almost be counterproductive," Howard said.

Placing collection stations at two of the entry sites would be impossible because of state road regulations, he said.

Currently, the park collects about $180,000 in fees per year from those who stop in at the visitors center. It's possible to drive or bicycle through the entire park without paying a fee, but those who do not stop at the visitors center won't be able to watch a film about the battle, look at other exhibits or pick up self-guided tour brochures.

Despite tightening budgets for national parks and the constant fear of budget reductions, Howard takes a philanthropical point of view when it comes to the idea of cracking down on those who don't pay.

"This is a national park. This park belongs to the people of the United States. They own it, we run it for them," Howard said, adding that he feels people can decide whether to pay.

Some people, including members of the military and school groups, are not required to pay an entry fee.

Last year, 297,640 people visited the park.

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