On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial. One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act into law, creating the National Park Service to oversee the management of all national parks and some national monuments. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6166 consolidating all national parks, monuments, cemeteries, memorials, and military and capital parks under the direction of the National Park System.
Today the National Park Service manages 59 national parks, from Denali, Alaska to the Everglades in Florida. In addition to the iconic national parks, NPS manages hundreds of other units, including the recently established Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Altogether, NPS oversees 413 units, including Yellowstone National Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Gateway National Recreation Area, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Bandelier National Monument, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Gettysburg National Military Park, Antietam National Battlefield, World War II Memorial, Yorktown National Cemetery, Harry S Truman National Historic Site, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Quite an impressive assortment!
In honor of the centennial, NPS is encouraging Americans everywhere to #FindYourPark, and to explore more than just the well-known national parks. Throughout the year, NPS has been highlighting national historic sites, urban parks, battlefields, and other sites that the public might not normally associate with the national park system. You can visit the Find Your Park website to learn about NPS units and programs and events near you.
Another initiative is Every Kid in a Park, encouraging children and their family to visit parks, monuments, and other sites. As part of this program, every fourth grader in the country can receive a pass to get them into NPS sites for a whole year for free.
NPS has stated, “Find Your Park is about more than just national parks! It's about the National Park Service working in your community through education programs, community assistance projects, and more. It's about state parks, local parks, trails, museums, historic sites, and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries.”
The Atomic Heritage Foundation is very pleased that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is now part of the national park system, ensuring that the public can visit and learn about the Manhattan Project and the sites involved for many generations to come.
In honor of the National Park Service’s birthday, all national park sites that usually charge an entrance fee will offer free admission on August 25-28. How many national parks have you visited? Check out this neat interactive feature by the Washington Post to find out!