By Alexia Springer
“There is nothing so American as our national parks.
The scenery and the wildlife are native.
The fundamental idea behind the parks is native.
It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people,
that is in the process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.
The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Park Service manages 401 sites, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, seashores, and preserves.
What National Parks did you visit last year?
10 Most Visited National Parks (2013)
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN, NC) – 12,289,121 recreational visits!
2. Grand Canyon National park (AZ)
3. Yosemite National Park (CA)
4. Yellowstone National Park (WY, MT, ID)
5. Olympic National Park (WA)
6. Rocky Mountain National Park (CO)
7. Zion National Park (UT)
8. Grand Teton National Park (WY)
9. Acadia National Park (ME)
10. Glacier National Park (MT) – 4,843,350 recreational visits
The National Park Service was established in 1916 with the primary purpose to manage the 84.9 million acres of land in the National Park system. There is an emphasis on strict preservation of pristine areas and hunting, fishing, and logging are NOT allowed in National Park lands.
National Parks Conservation Association Mission: “To protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations.”
Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service. In 1914, he had become a self-made millionaire in sales and was looking for a new challenge. In 1912, Mather met John Muir in Sequoia National Park. Two years later when he visited Sequoia and Yosemite, he was disgusted by the park’s poor conditions. He wrote a letter to his friend who was Secretary of the Interior, and was invited to do something about it himself. He created the federal agency: the National Park Service. Later named, the National Parks Conservation Association, Mather started the agency by paying staff out of his own pocket. They built public awareness, fundraised to purchase new park lands, and Mather often purchased land himself and donated it to the National Park Service for protection.
Robert Sterling Yard was essential to the passing of the bill that created the National Park Service. He left behind his career at the age of 50 to work beside Stephen Mather. At age 74, he co-founded The Wilderness Society whose mission “is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places.” They contribute to better protection, stewardship and restoration of public lands, preserving it for future generations. “From 1915 to 1916, Yard compiled a ‘National Parks Portfolio,’ full of his passionate writings about America’s wild places. The portfolio was distributed to every member of Congress. This publicity campaign helped persuade President Woodrow Wilson to sign the bill that created the National Park Service.” http://wilderness.org/bios/founders/robert-sterling-yard
The National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) has been established since 1919, by the same people that founded the National Park Service, and currently has over 875,000 members and supporters. NPCA’s website is full of information. Articles about climate change on earth, protecting wildlife and natural habitats, as well as American history and culture in our National Parks help develop a sense of place within America’s Parks. The political side of the park system is not forgotten in articles about policy and legislation, park funding, and park users. You can easily find out history about all National Parks and share stories of your experience on their website.
Under the FAQ section on the NPCA website, they state, “NPCA works to address major threats facing the National Park System by gathering the information we need through our two centers, Center for Park Management and Center for Park Research, by keeping our eyes and ears to the ground in 11 regional and 12 field offices, and by developing relationship on Capitol Hill and in the administration to counter legislation or policies that would adversely affect the Parks. We also pursue solutions in the courts when other avenues fail us.” (http://www.npca.org/about-us/faq.html)
Our National Parks are facing threats such as insufficient funding, air quality, and over development. There are many things that we can do to help! You can support the NPCA by becoming a member, explore the website to learn more information about the parks and problems they face, send a letter to the government, or subscribe to the NPCA electronic newsletter that will keep you up to date on the latest news and action items regarding the parks. You can also donate to support the Climate Ride: https://bike.climateride.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=3009
Indiana By the Numbers – Indiana National Parks (according to the nps.gov website)
- 3 National Parks
- 30 National Natural Landmarks
- 39 National Historic Landmarks
- 1,935,295 visitors to national parks in 2013
- $81,900,000 economic benefit from national park tourism (in 2013)
- 39,777 hours donated by volunteers
- $764,928,143 of historic rehabilitation projects stimulated by tax incentives (since 1995)
Unfortunately, being native to Indiana did not help me in knowing all three of the National Parks in Indiana.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
“Experience these sights at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Waves crashing on sandy beaches, Karner Blue butterflies landing on wild lupines, peaceful silence lingering along winter trails, bank swallows flying from their nest inside the dunes”
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
“The British flag would not be raised above Fort Sackville Feb. 25, 1779. At 10am, the garrison surrendered to American Col. George Rogers Clark. His American army, aided by French residents of the Illionois county, had marched through freezing floodwaters to gain this victory. The fort’s capture assured United States claims to the frontier, an area nearly as large as the original 13 states.
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
“Abraham Lincoln spent 14 years of his life and grew from youth into manhood (1816-1830) on this southern Indiana soil. Many of the character traits and moral values that made Abraham one of the world’s most respected leaders were formed and nurtured here.”
2016 marks the National Park Service 100 years of service. What a coincidence that 2016 also marks the Indiana Bicentennial, honoring 200 years of history. I find it only fitting that the National Park Conservation Association be one of the beneficiaries on Team Earlham for the Midwest Climate Ride. On the ride coming up the first week in September, we will get the opportunity to bike through the Indiana National Dunes. We will be sure to take many pictures!
“National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources.
It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves,
thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.”
– John F. Kennedy