Everyone has a story of their first experience in a national park. Maybe you remember squeezing your grandmother’s hand and waiting with bated breath for Old Faithful to spit the Earth’s core into the air? You knew it was coming, but you still sent out a squeal of surprise when she blew, then burst into laughter and applause for Yellowstone’s incredible performance.
Or maybe your first experience was just simply driving across Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier and feeling like with each tire revolution, you were getting closer and closer to paradise. And after you reached Logan Pass, you remember experiencing extreme envy toward the mountain goat on the Highline Trail that got to call that place home.
Perhaps your first memory was standing at an overlook in Shenandoah and honestly believing that if you got a running start and jumped into the beautiful sea of blue and green, the friendly looking fog would bound you softly, like a trampoline, from ridge to ridge.
America’s national parks are some of our country’s best ideas. With all of the shit that clogs the newsfeed, and between all of our (widening) differences as a union, our parks are something we are ALL proud of. I would argue they’re only getting better with age and more widely representative of the full American story, too.
Today is a special day. Today—August 25, 2016—is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. THE group that holds the trust and the responsibility of managing the 412 units of the National Park System. Happy Birthday, NPS—whoop whoop!
From this point forward, we will be entering in our second century of stewarding America’s national parks. Never in our country’s history has there been a more pressing need to defend our public lands, engage communities through recreation and conservation, and do everything in our collective power to ensure everyone who wishes to experience raw, sincere and significant beauty is able to do so, for all of eternity.
Today we celebrate the memories and (sometimes) life-altering emotions we experience when we explore our national parks. We give thanks to the founding visionaries of our national parks and the NPS, who looked beyond their lifetimes and into ours, and into the generations that will come after us.
Our main man, Theodore Roosevelt—the spirit behind our Live Monumental campaign—is one such visionary. Known as the Conservation President, Teddy was buddies with famed naturalist John Muir. Teddy once invited himself along on an adventure with Muir in Yosemite, writing: “I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you.” What ultimately came from this snowy weekend was an undying ethic to protect public lands for future generations (as well as the addition of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to Yosemite National Park’s boundary). He left some pretty impressive stats in the wake of his presidency—and laid the foundation for how we would treat our public lands. We have Teddy Roosevelt to thank for:
- Protecting 230 million acres of public land
- Setting aside 150 national forests
- Establishing the first 51 bird reserves
- Creating five national parks
- Instituting the first 18 national monuments… as well as the Antiquities Act
Let’s all raise a glass and cheers to national parks and the National Park Service!
Now go plan your weekend adventure… Your national parks are waiving entry fees through August 28!