With doom and gloom about the nation's economy starting to swirl again, why wait to look for bargains and freebies?

This weekend -- as part of a nationwide offer -- the National Parks Service is offering free admission to national parks, National Wildlife Refuges and certain Bureau of Land Management sites.

Bill Martin, public information officer at Fort Sumter National Monument, said earlier this year the Secretary of Interior designated this weekend among several weekends and days in 2010 as "fee free." Besides this weekend, remaining fee free dates are Sept. 25 in honor of Public Lands Day and Nov. 11 for Veteran's Day.

"The park service wants to provide an opportunity for visitors to connect with the outdoors and engage in healthy activities while learning more about stewardship of our national parks and other federal lands," Martin said.

Part of the focus of all the fee free days is to encourage physical fitness activities, such as bike rides and kayak excursions.

Locally, the fee free offer really only applies to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island because it's the only park site that charges an admission. Those fees are $3 for adults (age 16 and up) and $5 for families. There is no admission for children ages 15 and under.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant and Fort Sumter are free year-round. However, a private tour company charges $16 for adults for the ferry service to Fort Sumter, located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Those charges are not being waived during fee free weekend.

The only national park (i.e. not a site, monument, etc) in South Carolina is Congaree National Park, which contains the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining in North America. Congaree, located southeast of Columbia, contains a 2.4-mile boardwalk loop trail, 20 miles of backwoods hiking trails and paddling opportunities.

Reach David Quick at dquick@postandcourier.com or 937-5516. See his Running Charleston blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/running_blog