We take a break this month from our regularly scheduled programming to celebrate something very near and dear to my heart (and most likely yours as well). On August 25th, The National Park Service celebrated 100 years of service. In case you weren’t able to make it out to a park for the day- let me summarize the events across our nation. It was a festive special day, unlike anything our parks have seen before. With free entrance, musical events, instameets, special campfire programs, and free cake: every park offered something special for those guests fortunate enough to be visiting a park on this historic day. We were the google doodle of the day, Facebook featured us their home page and we were the number one trending topic on twitter. Because I am a National Park Service employee, I was lucky enough to receive several gifts –from coworkers, management, and park visitors- to commemorate this special day. These gifts got me thinking about the gifts that our national parks give all of us daily. Gifts that are worth celebrating as the agency which protects them reaches this milestone.
This goes without saying, and one might say that I could end the blog right here because this gift is possibly the greatest that national parks can offer. I agree to that point. One visit to the Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley and you will understand exactly why national parks exist. They are places whose unique beauty will stand the test of time as they are protected for generations and generations.
Reminders of our (sometimes unpleasant) past
It may not always be exactly pleasant, but reminders of our past are sometimes necessary to understand just how far we have come, and how far we have to go still. Places like Manzanar National Historic Site and Cesar Chavez National Monument remind us of more recent oppressions, while places like Yosemite hold reminders of more long ago oppressions of the native peoples that once occupied the valley. They help us to remember to never repeat these mistakes.
When I look back on my life, it isn’t the dinners at home or shopping trips that I remember. What I remember the most from my past is the adventures that I had with the people I care about. The hikes accomplished, the fish we caught, the rivers we white-water rafted, the mountains we summited, the waterfalls we peered down (and up) at, the wildlife we witnessed. These are the memories that will stay with me for years to come, and I have the national parks to thank for that.
I have met a lot of great people while working in the national parks, and I know that I am not the only one. These amazing places draw in interesting people from all walks of life and most are eager to meet a friend. Conversations with visitors at the top of a mountain we summited together have led to some of my deepest friendships, and I know many with similar stories of friendships forged in the most unlikely of places. And it’s all thanks to these parks that brought us together.
Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!