By Steve Phillips
New investments improve park facilities, enhance their accessibility, and help more visitors explore some of our nation’s most inspiring places.
With the stroke of a pen, President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service (NPS) on August 25, 1916. Its mission: “to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
This year, in celebration of the NPS’s 100th birthday, Congress and many other generous partners across the country are making new investments to improve park facilities, enhance their accessibility, and help more visitors explore some of our nation’s most inspiring places.
A stunning, 3D IMAX fi lm aptly-called “National Parks Adventure,” will open this summer at hundreds of big-screen theaters across the country and around the world to commemorate the centennial. Th e film is narrated by Robert Redford and features legendary climber Conrad Anker, who leads audiences to new heights and spectacular views at national parks across the country.
The NPS reports a record-breaking 307,247,252 visits to national parks last year. “The popularity of national parks is well known, but last year’s numbers are extraordinary,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th year, we’re preparing to welcome more visitors than ever including a new generation of park supporters and advocates who are discovering their own national park adventures.”
Last year, Utah’s national parks were visited by more than six million people from around the world. No wonder there’s such a draw — the parks’ distinctive natural features include ancient petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park, delicate rock bows in Arches, coral-hued hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, slot canyon trails in Zion and amazing stone arches at Canyonlands the list of wonders in Utah’s national parks seems almost limitless.
Utah communities near the state’s national parks will join in the anniversary celebration. “Th e centennial is all about making connections with outdoor places and celebrating the unique bond communities have with the special places preserved within the national park system,” says Maria Twitchell, executive director of the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism Bureau. And exhibits at the St. George Museum this summer will focus on the area’s national parks.
A tri-state regional committee called “Parks100” has created a website to help visitors learn more about national parks and other natural attractions in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. Th e site, www.parks100.com, includes a calendar listing NPS centennial events in the area known as the “Grand Circle.” And the NPS has launched a public service campaign called “Find Your Park” (www.fi ndyourpark.com) to help Americans connect with parks, historic sites and recreation areas close to their homes.
And just up the road, Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s fi rst, established in 1872, has built a new walkway around the iconic “Old Faithful” geyser to commemorate the event. Plans call for restoration of the historic Albright Visitor Center and completion of the Gardiner Gateway Project as well.
Perhaps the best birthday present — all Americans get free entrance into all the parks on the following dates this summer and fall: August 25-28 (National Park Service Birthday), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).