Have your found your national park yet?
The National Park Service is calling on Americans to find a connection with what many consider our country's greatest idea — the National Park System of parks, battlefields, monuments, seashores and memorials.
It's all part of the NPS' centennial celebration leading up to 2016. The aim of the campaign, aptly named #FindYourPark, is to encourage Americans to find the national park that speaks to their interests. Whether it's the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park, the history of Gettysburg National Military Park, or the culture of Cape Lookout National Seashore, the NPS has sites that match any interest.
It's no coincidence that this campaign comes when it does; for years, park budgets have been trimmed, forcing parks to shut down services and adding to billions of dollars in backlogged maintenance projects. In fact, a recent report found that the NPS is currently looking at $11.5 billion in deferred maintenance projects.
Yet, we all know these are some magnificent sights to behold. Here's a quick, by-the-numbers look at why you should vote with your feet by visiting a park — and it wouldn't hurt to bring up your concerns about park funding to your senator while you're at it!
Arches National Park
2,000: Number of documented arches in this Utah park
50 degrees: The amount temperatures can fluctuate on a daily basis
$32.9 million: Amount needed to complete delayed maintenance projects
Photo: Matthew Connolly/Shutterstock
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- 588,855: Acres of wilderness within the park
- 290 feet: Height of Rainbow Bridge, one of the largest natural bridges in the world
- $65.1 million: Backlog of maintenance projects
Rocky Mountain National Park
- 67: Number of mammal species native to this gorgeous park
- 14,259 feet: Highest elevation in the park
- $67 million: Needed to repair roads, bridges, trails, visitor centers and campgrounds
According to a study conducted by Hall & Partners on behalf of the National Park Foundation, while about 80 percent of Americans have heard of the National Park Service, only 38 percent are at all familiar with the organization and all that they do. What's more, the NPS has found that most Americans think national parks are only the giant parks of the West, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. They want to remind people that there are NPS units all around the country — from the Statue of Liberty in New York City to Independence Hall in Philadelphia to Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas to the newly designated Pullman National Monument in the heart of Chicago. With the FindYourPark, campaign, the NPS is hoping to connect or reconnect Americans with all of the places they can go and things they can see at NPS sites.
First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush are serving as the honorary co-chairs for the NPS's 100-year celebration. You can find their #FindYourPark stories, as well as those of other celebrity centennial ambassadors such as Bill Nye and Terrance J at FindYourPark.com.
The only problem that I foresee with this campaign is that it is too hard to find just one park that holds my heart. I have worked in parks around the country, from Colonial National Historic Park in Yorktown Virginia to Yosemite National Park in California to Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. I have had amazing family vacations in Acadia, Yellowstone, Cap Hatteras and the Everglades. And I have always loved visiting the amazing national monuments, memorials and museums in Washington, D.C.
But if I had to choose one park, it would be Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. That is the first park I ever worked at in 1993. It's the park where I met my husband in 1995 and where both of my daughters hiked their first trails. I have hiked there in the dark, camped there in the rain, and splashed in Shenadoah's pools of water on hot summer days. My park is Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park
- 75 miles: Distance from the bustling metropolis of Washington, D.C.
- 805: Number of wildflower species that can be found within the park
- $93 million: Amount needed to clear the park's backlog of deferred maintenance projects
Related on MNN: