National Park Week begins Saturday, April 21st and we’ve put together 5 great ways to celebrate! Experience our nation’s natural beauty and support both your body and your mind.
A Brief History of National Parks
Prior to the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, many great Americans were influential in preserving our nation’s natural beauty.
In 1832, artist George Catlin traveled to the Great Plains, and wrote about a growing desire that the beauty and vitality of nature should be reserved for future generations to enjoy.
In 1864, Senator John Conness introduced an act to transfer lands to the state, so that they could be protected and preserved. President Abraham Lincoln signed the act later that year, on the condition that the lands “be held for public use, resort, and recreation…inalienable for all time.”
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, designed to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” This led to the creation of many national monuments and other historic sites.
Finally, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service, which now oversees all National parks, monuments, military parks, cemeteries, memorials, and Capital parks.
5 Ways to Get Involved With National Park Week
National Park Week is a week of festivities sponsored by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of our national parks. There are many opportunities to not only explore and enjoy these natural treasures, but also to get involved and give back – all while learning new things and improving your overall wellness.
#1 – Take Advantage of Great Deals!
There are many ways to celebrate National Park Week starting on Day 1, when admission to all parks will be free! While many parks are admission-free all year long, there are over 100 parks waiving admission fees on April 21st. Some popular parks to visit include the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Hawaii Volcanoes, Death Valley, and Acadia.
There are also tons of events and entertainment throughout the week, available at zero cost! Depending on your location (or travel plans), you can try something new during National Park Week. Go birding at Fort McHenry, take a photo workshop at Cumberland Gap, make pottery at Ocmulgee National Monument, or try your hand at surf fishing at Gateway National Recreation Area.
#2 – Get the Kids Involved!
The Junior Ranger program is an activity-based program featured in most parks. Their motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect!”, introduces children to our parks and preserves, inspiring them to learn and empowering them to protect our greatest natural resources.
On April 21st, children can participate in most activities for free, and even earn Junior Ranger badges! Junior Ranger activities will be hosted at parks across the nation, so check with your local park to find out what’s in store!
Many parks offer educational programs for children year-round, teaching them about nature, and the role they play in protecting it. Find your park for more information about youth programs.
#3 – Give Back
The National Park Service relies on volunteers to help protect our historical landmarks and preserve the beauty of nature for future generations to enjoy. April 21st is Volunteer Day (Part of National Volunteer Week).
You can give back by volunteering, and get a chance to explore nature at the same time! Help beautify a park, plant native trees, or experience a hike with park staff as they collect wild seeds. We are all stewards of our planet, and there are many ways to help preserve these lands for future generations. Find your park and choose an opportunity to give back.
Many of Positive Adventure’s Outdoor Education programs are facilitated in state and national parks and are customized to benefit youth, communities, and organizations. We organize ways to give back with educational programs, clean-up initiatives, and native plant restoration.
#4 – Celebrate Earth Day!
April 22nd is Earth Day, and the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System! The National Park Service is inviting visitors from all backgrounds to #FindYourWay. Explore America’s national scenic, recreational, and historic trails and wild and scenic rivers—and all rivers and trails in your neighborhood and beyond.
Bike through history on the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, paddle or fish a new “Ranger Recommended” river, or join the fun during the 2nd Annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration, where you can personalize water lanterns that will be released onto the Western Canal, creating hundreds of floating points of light.
This year, the Earth Day Network is fighting to end plastic pollution, which has become a major threat to marine life, human hormones, and landfills. If you’d like to celebrate while making a difference, you can find ways to pitch in here.
#5 – Fill Your Park Prescription
Did you know that spending time in nature can have physical, social, and mental benefits? April 29th, the final day of National Park Week, is also National Park Rx Day.
The ParkRx Initiative is made up of agencies dedicated to utilizing nature and public parks to improve individual and community health, and there are several reasons to fill your “park prescription”.
Psychologically, time spent exercising in nature has been reported to not only reduce stress, and improve attention, but also positively impact mental restoration and coping with attention disorders.
Spending time in nature leads to better overall health, increased longevity, and lowered instances of disease stemming from inactivity. Social activities in nature can work to strengthen and build a community’s social networks and bonds.
Did you know that when we increase the amount of green space in a community by planting trees and community gardens, aggression, crime, and violence have a higher likelihood of being minimized?
Here’s another awesome opportunity: Virtual Running Club is hosting virtual 5k, 10k, and half marathon races in many National Parks. You can win awesome swag, and with free admission, there’s never been a better time to explore our parks. Go here for more info.
National Park Week is the perfect chance to explore our parks, get involved, and get moving. Plan your adventure today!