Note: This was written for our Park’s Bi-Annual Publication. I thought other Park’s might be interested in a fun overview of where we have come and where we are going. 

By: Alex Warneke (Cabrillo National Monument)

“Americans are heirs to an extraordinary legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship that has protected our great outdoors for the use and benefit of all. We are blessed with the most beautiful landscapes and waterscapes in the world, and it is our obligation to make sure the next generation is able to enjoy that same bounty.”

-President Barack Obama

2015 National Park Proclamation

The beauty and grandeur of America’s public lands have captivated people for generations. Bordering on a hundred years ago now, a few daring men and women were so enthralled with these wild places that they advocated for their indefinite stewardship and preservation. Thus, on the innate human need to connect with the beauty of the natural world, America’s Greatest Idea was formed.

John_Muir_CaneThough many areas, beginning with Yellowstone in 1872, were previously designated as National Parks, it was not until August 25, 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson formally established the National Park Service. Stemming from the ideals of such iconic early supporters as Muir, Mather, and Roosevelt, the Park Service embarked on a noble mission to protect and preserve America’s resources for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

In it’s First Century, the National Park Service preserved well over 400 areas of cultural, historical, and natural significance. It is in these places that millions of American’s have discovered the beauty of nature, the unique understanding that comes with perspective, and the collective knowledge of who we are and what we stand for. It is in these places that American stories and values are preserved.

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On the eve of our Centennial celebration, we reflect on the success of the past and look to the future with high hopes. As we prepare for the next 100 years, we strive to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates. With the help of our vital park partners and national sponsors, the Park Service has established a Centennial Call to Action with ongoing initiatives that will revitalize and enhance our national parks. These campaigns will encourage American’s to get up, get out, and Find Your Park. They will offer 4th graders free admission to all public lands, in the hopes that one-day seeing Every Kid In a Park will become the new normal. They will encourage people to volunteer and give back to their communities. Broadly, the Centennial Campaign will redefine our ideas of what National Parks are and more importantly, what they can be.

Next year, 2016, will mark a great celebration throughout the nation and everyone is invited. We hope that you will join us for the next 100 years and help in not just continuing America’s Greatest Idea, but become a part of America’s Greatest Legacy.

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