2016 is a big year for our National Parks.

It’s the year our National Park Service turns 100, and thus celebrates one hundred years of preserving our nation’s most special places. One hundred years of protecting various forms of plant and animal wildlife. One hundred years of sweeping vistas, iconic photos, and timeless art. In no small way have the National Parks inspired The Great American Roadtrip, The Great American Family Vacation, and The Great American Tradition of Exploring, Dreaming, and Discovering (kudos to Mark Twain). Our National Parks provide endless exploration, recreation, and relaxation opportunities, and are a public asset for all people – here for us to enjoy so long as we recognize their worth and value.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, people are invited to discover the meaning of national parks to their lives and inspire a nation to both experience and become devoted to these special places.

The National Park Centennial Initiative was launched during the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service, when on August 25th, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced the Department’s intention to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. Since then the National Park Service asked citizens, park partners, experts and other stakeholders what they envisioned for a second century of national parks.

From that early initiative came a goal that is supported across all parks in the United States, it reads: “Centennial Goal: Connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.”

And so, beginning now in the summer of 2015, park staff, volunteers, and supporters will be working hard to reach out and bring new and returning visitors to parks across America in 2016. 10 million people to be exact.

So, where will all of these people go to? 

Well, the National Park system includes 407 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.

You can look up the multitude of sites to visit at the NPS “About Us” link here: www.nps.gov/aboutus/faqs

Also, stay tuned to learn more about the Find Your Park initiative for 2015/2016, which will make it all but impossible to not be excited to get out and explore in the next year!

To keep up with the Centennial Initiative and to experience the interactive version of The Future of America’s National Parks and special features, please visit centennial website at www.nps.gov/2016.

To the waters & the wild!

Kendall Gilbert