Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado).
Credit: Kent Kanouse, flickr.
The National Park Service will celebrate its 99th anniversary this month by waiving the entrance fee at all 408 of its parks, monuments and other sites, a prelude to the agency’s centennial celebration in 2016.
The National Park Service was founded on Aug. 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that put federal parks under the management of a single unified agency. At the time, the National Park Service was in charge of just 35 national parks and monuments. Now, it manages more than 400 sites, covering iconic natural and cultural landmarks from the Everglades, to the Grand Canyon, to Mount Rushmore.
Haleakalā National Park (Hawaii). Credit: Brian Uhreen, flickr.
That decision has worked out pretty well. By some measures, national parks are more popular than ever: they saw record visitation in 2014, contributing $29.7 billion to the economy and supporting about 277,000 jobs.
But while this increased traffic is a great sign that Americans love our spectacular public lands, many people--notably kids--are increasingly disconnected from nature.
Recently, the National Park Service launched a campaign to help even more Americans visit national parks, the “Find Your Park” project, part of a larger celebration of the National Park System’s centennial in 2016. In conjunction with that effort, we are working hard to ensure Congress funds national park maintenance and other critical conservation programs, so that these national icons can be handed down to future Americans.
It’s not quite the centennial yet, but why wait? Now is a great time to celebrate the National Park Service.