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Kids still get into national parks for free, but adults will pay in 2018

FILE: Parks Canada pass. Tracy Nagai / Global Calgary

The party is nearly over: the free admission to national parks and heritage sites that accompanied Canada’s 150th birthday bash will come to an end Dec. 31.

Earlier this year, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was considering whether to extend the free admission to parks and heritage sites because the program had proven so popular.

READ MORE: ‘Free’ Parks Canada passes actually costing taxpayers $5.7 million

But McKenna now says the admission fees will return for adults as of Jan. 1, although she is following through on plans to make national parks free for kids starting in 2018.

READ MORE: Parks Canada hoping visitors will get a free 2017 pass, even though they don’t need one

The free parks program helped push attendance at national parks up 12 per cent in the first seven months of the year, with some parks so busy they had to close their gates temporarily on occasion.

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More than 14 million people took a trip to a national park or heritage site between Jan. 1 and July 31, up from about 12.5 million in the same period in 2016.

READ MORE: Parks Canada website swamped by demand for free 2017 national parks passes

In July, some parks saw almost twice as many monthly visitors as the previous summer, such as Point Pelee National Park in southwestern Ontario, where July visits were 90 per cent higher than the same month in 2016.