Celebrate the great outdoors during National Park Week 2013, April 20th – 28th. Admission is free at National Parks Monday, April 22nd through Friday, April 26th. National Park Week is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation.
As a kid growing up in California, I hiked, camped, and visited several of the 26 national parks in California. Being in the midst of nature inspired a lifelong love of trees, birds, and wildflowers.
In honor of National Park Week, I decided to learn more about National Parks.
The First National Park Week in 1994
On April 14, 1994, President Bill Clinton issued Presidential Proclamation 6670 proclaiming the week of May 23 through May 29, as National Park Week. At that time there were 367 national parks, which included historic sites, monuments, parks, lakeshores, seashores, rivers, and scenic trails. In his proclamation President Clinton stated:
“I encourage all Americans to join me in making National Park Week a truly American celebration of our heritage. We are challenged to protect and preserve our parks, to cherish them first, then to teach our children to do the same, so that they, too, can give this gift to their children.”
Every president since has issued a yearly Presidential Proclamation for National Park Week. In 1996, National Park Week moved to the last week in April.
National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS), created in 1916 as a bureau of the Department of the Interior, oversees the management of the National Park System. The NPS also helps administer the National Register of Historic Places, Heritage Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Historic Landmarks, and Trails.
The National Park Service Mission is:
“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
National Park System
The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 401 sites which include:
- 125 historical parks or sites
- 78 monuments
- 59 parks
- 29 seashores, lakeshores, rivers, or riverways
- 29 memorials
- 25 battlefields or military parks
- 20 preserves or reserves
- 18 recreation areas
- 18 parkways, scenic trails, or other designations
President Barack Obama issued Presidential Proclamations in March 2013 establishing 5 new national monuments (included in above figures).
- Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Ohio)
- Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument (Maryland)
- First State National Monument (Delaware)
- Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument (New Mexico)
- San Juan Islands National Monument (Washington)
National Park Trivia
- Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, established in 1872.
- Every American lives within 100 miles of at least one national park.
- The smallest national park site is the 1/4 acre Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
- 282 million people visited national parks in 2012.
- National parks contain 17,000 miles of trails.
- The world’s largest living things, Giant Sequoia trees, live in California’s Sequoia National Park.
- Annually, nearly 275,000 people contribute about 6.4 million volunteer hours to national parks.
- Alaska’s 13.2 million acres Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park.
- National parks provide habitat protection for 421 threatened or endangered plant and animal species.
- President’s Park in Washington, DC encompasses the White House and its grounds.
- National Park Foundation
- National Park Service (NPS)
- National Park Service – National Park Service Overview
- National Park Service – National Park System List of Sites
- The American Presidency Project – Proclamation 6670 – National Park Week, 1994
- The American Presidency Project – Proclamation 8961 – National Park Week, 2013
- Wikipedia – National Park Service