One hundred years ago tomorrow, on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service by signing the Organic Act that ensured the conservation and protection of our natural lands and their wildlife and historic objects for the enjoyment of future generations. Our national parks are beautiful and inspiring and preserving these lands was one of the best things our country has ever done, if you ask me.
Today, my daughter started 4th grade so we have something else to celebrate in terms of the NPS. Last year, the White House and Federal Land Management agencies launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The program starts each year on September 1st and provides all fourth graders across the country access to their own pass to national parks, national forests, and other federal public lands and waters for the school year. You can learn more and sign up online at www.everykidinapark.gov.
And, in case a week is too long to wait, in celebration of its 100th birthday, the National Park Service is inviting everyone to enjoy free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28. Chances are, there’s a park near you.
Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called our national parks “absolutely American, absolutely democratic” and added that, “they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Sometimes the growing population and development around us can seem to be devouring nature. But then I find myself paddling on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton or swimming with my kids in the river in the Yosemite Valley and I am reminded that these beautiful, diverse and widespread national treasures will always be there, just waiting for us all.