NPS Centennial

NPS Centennial

 The National Park Service turned 100 on August 25, 2016

In many celebrations across the United States, the National Park Service celebrated the accomplishments of its first 100 years, but more importantly, it was as milestone for looking ahead to the next 100 years. It was more than a birthday.

First 100 years

In its first century, the National Park Service focused on stewardship and preservation of the historical and cultural foundations of our nation and on the enjoyment of these exceptional places.

– Places of beauty and natural wonder, such as cathedral forests of Redwood, the call of the Denali wilderness, and in the quiet of Grand Canyon, or the surreal landscapes of the volcanoes in Hawaii;

– Places that increase our understanding, knowledge, and appreciation, such as our 79 national and international historic sites;

– Places to learn about honor, bravery, patriotism, and sacrifice, including those where civic engagements—often confrontational and sometimes violent—have shaped who we are as a people: Selma to Montgomery, Brown v. Board of Education, Manzanar, the Statue of Liberty, and Flight 93;

– Places that are a collective expression of who we are as a people and where our values were forged, like the solemn battlefields of Yorktown and Gettysburg to the silent waters that embrace the USS Arizona;

– Places that deliver a message to future generations about the experiences that have made America a symbol of freedom and opportunity for the rest of the world.


In 2014, national parks experienced a record-breaking 292.8 million visits, which translated into $29.7 billion in economic activity that supported nearly 277,000 jobs across the country.


How many employees are in the National Park Service?

  • Permanent, temporary, and seasonal: Approximately 22,000 diverse professionals
  • Volunteers in Parks: 221,000


First National Parks: 1872 Yellowstone; Yosemite was a California Stare Park in 1864 and became a National Park in 1890

– Largest: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK, at 13.2 million acres

– Smallest: Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, PA, at 0.02 acres


Early leaders of the Park Service Idea

Early Leaders of the National Park Service






Second 100 Years

In 2015, the NPS Centennial kicked off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

Centennial Goal

Connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.

Call to Action

To focus the NPS efforts to achieve this goal, a Call to Action was issued to all National Park Service employees and partners to commit to actions that advance the Service toward a shared vision for 2016 and our second century.  It describes 4 main themes, 15 goals, and 37 actions that chart a new direction for the National Park Service as it enters its second century. The heart of the plan includes these four broad themes, each supported by specific goals and measureable actions.

– Connecting People to Parks

– Advancing the NPS Education Mission

– Preserving America’s Special Places

– Enhancing Professional and Organizational Excellence

National Park Service Centennial Act

In September 2015, the National Park Service Centennial Act was proposed by the Obama Administration to:

– further the agency’s legacy of protecting, preserving and sharing some of the Nation’s most iconic sites with all Americans

– further funding for critical infrastructure projects, leveraging public-private donations and partnerships to enhance visitor experiences, and expanding volunteer and job opportunities in national parks and historic sites across the country

– provide new resources to help revitalize our national parks, upgrade park facilities, and connect a new, diverse generation to the great outdoors.

Key provisions of the Act include:

– Providing funding for signature Centennial projects to make necessary improvements to park infrastructure; to establish a Second Century fund that will encourage philanthropic support for NPS programs and projects; and to establish a Second Century Endowment held by the National Park Foundation to help it leverage private donations for NPS projects and programs.

– Strengthening the National Park Service’s capacity to provide visitor services and protecting the special places in its care by expanding eligibility for young people to participate in the Public Lands Corp, which will extend the timeline for direct-hire authority through that program. As a result, the National Park Service will be able to recruit and hire more young and diverse Americans.

–  Allowing for increased funding to support the National Park Service’s Volunteers in the Park program by removing the authorization ceiling. Last year, the program engaged at least 247,000 people who volunteered nearly 6.7 million hours of time.

–  Ensuring that the National Park Service has the tools to carry out education programs that meet the needs and interests of a changing American demographic.

–  Allowing the National Park Service to use additional contracting tools, which are more consistent with industry practices, to contract with commercial visitor service providers for lodging, food and beverage, and other visitor services.


Find Your Park

A centerpiece of the 2016 Centennial was a broad public engagement campaign to reintroduce the national parks and the work of the National Park Service to a new generation of Americans, inviting them to visit and get involved. A major campaign, named Find Your Park, was a two-year effort that will began in 2015 and ran throughout the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary year in 2016.  The NPS campaign was being spearheaded and implemented by the National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner and fundraiser for the National Park Service.

Find Your Park continues today and is about more than just national parks. It’s about all parks including 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. First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Laura Bush served as honorary co-chairs to promote the celebration of the 2016 centennial and to encourage people to find their park by connecting with their favorite parks and public lands.

In honor of its 99th birthday on August 25, 2015, the National Park Foundation, the NPS’s official charity, created a list of 99 Ways to #FindYourPark. The list includes a wide range of activities that you can do in urban parks, nature parks, historic parks, and everything in between to find a park.

  1. Go climbing
  2. Write poetry
  3. Be an urban hiker
  4. Visit a National Heritage Area
  5. Dance
  6. Learn about climate change
  7. Discover a culture new to you
  8. Experience silence
  9. Walk through a doorway of a historic house
  10. Find inspiration in the story of a Civil Rights leader
  11. Go on a ranger-led tour #RangersPointingAtThings
  12. Hug a tree
  13. Make a memory
  14. Earn a Jr. Ranger badge
  15. Relax on the banks of a scenic river
  16. Celebrate innovation
  17. Find life in a desert
  18. Get inspired by a First Lady
  19. Stand on a mountaintop
  20. Bring a kid to a park
  21. Paddle a water trail
  22. Take a photo that matches a historic one #retrogram
  23. Try something new
  24. Channel your inner Bill Nye – become a citizen scientist
  25. Walk a historic main street
  26. Find your park in Spanish #EncuentraTuParque
  27. Explore a cave
  28. Go green
  29. Brush up your national park trivia skills
  30. Scout a park, boys and girls!
  31. Make art in a park
  32. Celebrate Native American heritage
  33. Come sail away
  34. Take a picnic and dine al fresco
  35. Be bear aware
  36. Hit the road
  37. Enlighten yourself at a historic lighthouse
  38. Go biking
  39. Explore Asian American and Pacific Islander culture in America
  40. Feel the sand between your toes
  41. Share your story
  42. Learn about endangered species
  43. Join us
  44. Follow NPS on social media
  45. Follow the footsteps of a woman who made history
  46. Get in the know about H2O
  47. Bee pollinator friendly
  48. Get VIP status
  49. Catch a wave
  50. Immerse yourself in a living history program
  51. Hit record
  52. Get prehistoric
  53. Improve your health – get a park Rx
  54. Use your free active military pass
  55. Get reel – visit a park featured in your favorite movie
  56. Join a trail clean-up
  57. See the sea
  58. Discover a traditional tribal cultural practice
  59. Let Elmo and Murray be your guides
  60. Mail a postcard
  61. Discover history around you
  62. Make new friends
  63. Raft down a river
  64. Pay your respects at a national cemetery
  65. Pick a POTUS
  66. Take a mini-cruise
  67. Plan ahead and prepare
  68. Walk nature’s treadmill
  69. Pose for a family photo in a park
  70. Recognize women who made history
  71. Reflect on our most difficult stories
  72. Stamp your park passport
  73. Ride on a historic carousel
  74. Run
  75. See history from a different perspective
  76. Renew your spirit
  77. See how NPS helps transform your community
  78. Go fish
  79. See the starry, starry night
  80. Make a splash
  81. Share a #tbt park photo
  82. Discover the beauty of our nation’s other public lands
  83. Sleep outside
  84. Spread the love – thank a park volunteer
  85. Plan the best field trip ever
  86. Visit our international sisters
  87. Trash your trash
  88. Find a monument and decode history
  89. Travel the Underground Railroad
  90. Use the buddy system!
  91. Visit for free on our 99th birthday
  92. Wander an American battlefield
  93. Watch wildlife
  94. Take a deep breath
  95. Go wild – experience wilderness
  96. Use a national park lesson plan
  97. Play
  98. Take a sunrise selfie
  99. Get ready to celebrate with us in 2016!

Every Kid in a Park

To further the goal of connecting Americans with parks even more, a White House youth initiative to get all 4th graders and their families to experience the places that are home to our country’s natural treasures, rich history, and vibrant culture free of charge was implemented.  All kids in the fourth grade were granted access to their own Every Kid in a Park pass. This pass provided free access for the 4th grader and his or her family to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more.

National Celebrations

The National Park Service and National Park Foundation worked closely with partners, stakeholders, and communities across the country

– to satisfy the actions in the Call to Action plan,

– help Americans find their park,

– get all 4th graders and their families into National Parks,

– and ensure that the Centennial is more than a birthday.


For 2 years National Park units everywhere and their many partners put on special events and hosting visitors in ways never imagined before. Partners, such as American Express, Budweiser, Subaru, REI, Humana, Disney are each contributing energy, dollars, and commitment to the celebration.

Those special events included activities such as:

targeted restoration, repair, rehab, and new construction to highlight and make available park resources,

Challenge Projects,


photographic contests,


special park-unique offerings such as hearing the liberty bell ring,

bike rides and hikes,



essay and lecture series,



gateway partner projects,

improving or establishing trails,

improving accessibility,

open houses,


paddling and diving,

opening or reopening resources all to highlight and celebrate the next 100 years.




Last revised 21-Aug-17