“America has changed dramatically since the birth of the National Park Service in 1916. The roots of the National Park Service lie in the parks’ majestic, often isolated natural wonders and in places that exemplify our cultural heritage, but our reach now extends to places difficult to imagine 100 years ago—into urban centers, across rural landscapes, deep within oceans, and across night skies.” – NPS Centennial Initiative

An NPS Ranger at the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California

Happy Centennial, National Park Service! While the Park Service officially turns 100 on August 25, 2016, Centennial celebrations are already well underway. On January 1st, 2016 the National Park Service participated in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. The theme of the parade was “Find Your Adventure”, an iteration of NPS’ “Find Your Park” campaign. Ken Burns, producer of the widely loved documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, served as Grand Marshal of the parade.

The National Park Service is also moving forward with its Centennial Initiative, which places a major focus on reaching new audiences. It goes without saying that America has changed dramatically since the birth of the National Park Service in 1916… 80% of Americans now live in urban areas. Additionally, projections show that within 30 years, the majority of the U.S. population will be composed of minorities. In light of these changes, NPS recognizes that it must remain relevant to both urban and diverse audiences in order to thrive for the next one hundred years and beyond.

One component of the Centennial Initiative is the Urban Agenda, which “reimagines the Park Service’s role in urban areas.” The goal is to utilize urban National Park Service units and NPS units accessible from urban areas to reach youth who may not have the chance to travel to remote National Parks. While they may not contain vast swaths of wilderness, the hope is that these urban units of green space can still spark a lifelong love of nature in young visitors.

Furthermore, the National Park service recognizes it must address the lack of diversity among both visitors to National Parks and NPS employees. Currently, 80% of National Park Service visitors and employees are white. These numbers clearly do not reflect the changing face of our nation. In order for the agency to better serve ALL American people and communities, the Park Service declared its commitment to “developing a workforce that values diversity and an inclusive work environment so that we can recruit and retain diverse employees … As a first step, we will conduct a service-wide cultural diversity assessment and complete cultural competencies training for all supervisors.” (Item #36 in the NPS Call to Action, a component of the Centennial Initiative).

Alaskan teens on a backpacking expedition in Denali National Park

These initiatives resonate deeply with us at Alaska Geographic. Our Youth Programs put a major focus on engaging Alaskan youth from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented among public lands users and employees. We are looking forward to working closely with the National Park Service to bring these Centennial goals to fruition!

Learn more about the Centennial Initiative, including the Every Kid in a Park Campaign here: http://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/NPS-Centennial-Programs.htm

Stay posted on the NPS website to find out how you can participate in Centennial events and celebrations throughout the year: http://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/centennial-news.htm