Across the nation National Parks celebrated the Park Service’s 100th Birthday on August 25th, 2016 with the public. But here in DC’s backyard, at the George Washington Memorial Parkway, we chose to celebrate by highlighting the staff and volunteers. This choice to celebrate the 100th Birthday internally with people who for years (in our park as many as 43 years!) have dedicated their time and effort to being public servants and stewards of our nation’s lands and waters demonstrated the family mentality that my park fosters. From my eyes the whole celebration felt like a family reunion; maintenance staff sitting with interpretation and natural resources talking with administration.
The birthday celebration began by breaking the entire staff into groups, across divisions, and discussing their love for the Parkway as it is and what they hoped to see in its next 100 years. Different people had different opinions about why they loved this park, and that is one of the many advantages of George Washington Memorial Parkway. We have diverse landscapes and wildlife, a rich cultural history, and plenty of recreation area. Staff also discussed what they felt needed to improve in our park and that discussion fostered new ideas and distinct goals for the future. This exercise really captured the spirit of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration; appreciating the past and looking to improve the future.
What would a family reunion be without copious amounts of food? After the exercise was complete we dug into a barbecue buffet of chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans (standard summer fare here in the Nation’s capital). Once everyone was finished, the celebration continued by honoring staff and volunteers for their work and dedication to the park. People were recognized with awards and short speeches given by their peers. At the end of it all we ate cupcakes, macaroons, and cake to celebrate the 100th birthday because it’s not a party until there are desserts!
My contribution to the celebration was a Volunteers in Parks appreciation video that I spent 2 weeks filming and editing. This video project was very rewarding because I got to witness personally the effort and care that volunteers put towards my park. Having a better understanding of their motivations and desires for the park will make me a far more informed and dedicated Centennial Volunteer Ambassador moving forward because I can be an ambassador for the park and for the volunteers who donate thousands of hours to its upkeep and improvement.
From me and the George Washington Memorial Parkway family, Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!