This year marks the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service. Yesterday, August 25, was actually the birthday of the NPS. Celebrations occurred the day of and will continue into the weekend through August 28.
As a way of quietly celebrating after the hustle and bustle of a work day, my husband and I took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is also part of the NPS. The parkway runs north and south from Virginia to North Carolina, carving its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were able to view the mountains and valleys with a hint of daylight spilling through the mountain peaks.
This event has given pause for remembering and for embracing what has been preserved. While a specific date does not really matter, the idea of the National Park Services is one that many of us are truly grateful for. Before the world became too crazy with the hustle and bustle of industry, environmental dangers, political stubbornness, and overall human ignorance, there were those who took value in the great wide open spaces that existed across the United States. Forests, prairies, islands, and bodies of water, all hold beauty that has inspired people throughout the years. And with care, the founders of the NPS took it upon themselves to fight for nature’s preservation.
A Bit of History
In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service in an attempt to protect land and wildlife. He signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect archeological and historic sites. These places became known as National Monuments. According to NPS.gov, this gave Roosevelt the ability to establish “150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments…approximately 230 million acres of public land.”
Jumping ahead years later, on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service, a department of the federal government dedicated to the national parks and monuments. Wilson took what Roosevelt started and expanded the realm of protection. During that same year, Stephan T. Mather was appointed as the head of the National Park Services. He went on to expand the park system and increase political and public awareness.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NPS history. There are 413 areas that are part of the NPS. According to NPS.gov, this includes: “national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.”
The next 100 years…
One can only hope great things for the National Park Service in the next 100 years. Perhaps it can stave off greed of corrupt politicians who wish to put dents in the Antiquities Act or bargain off land to companies. Hopefully the number of nature lovers out there can outweigh those who don’t care, who pollute and create waste to the utter extreme. If that’s possible, then future generations can still be taught the importance of our lands, waters, and history.
The land is important, and all flora and fauna were here long before humans. Nature can take its space back, and it does so from time to time. We need that to remind us that it is not ours to take, but only to observe. As for the national memorials and battlefields, those were created by us. And they are there to remind us from where we came from. History is hidden in the Great Smoky Mountains in tiny cabins, in open battlefields and cemeteries where blood was shed, in adobe huts out in the wild, wild west. We need to stop and remember these things, these moments, to know where we came from and to direct us where we are going.
We live in a vast wilderness. Every now and then, we need to stop and take that in, and the National Park Service provides us with an option to do so.