The National Park Service had a great week.
They started off with the announcement of 2014 park visit numbers. A NPS press release stated:
In 2014, there were 292.8 million visits to national parks, breaking the previous record set in 1987 when parks saw just over 287.2 million visits.
Not only did 2014 break a visit record, but some parks broke records, too. On the heels of 2012 Superstorm Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown, Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks saw a huge spike in visits. I’ve been to all of these parks since 2013 – and some more than once! Click on each park to see my blog posts from my visits.
The report lists the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System, which includes recreation areas and monuments, and the 10 most visited national parks. Golden Gate National Recreation Area clocked in at 15 million visitors in 2014, topping the park system side, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park topped the national parks list with 10 million visitors!
After this announcement, we learned about the three new national monument designations President Obama penned, his 14th, 15th and 16th use of the Antiquities Act since taking office. OnEarth reports Obama has protected Chicago’s Pullman Park District, Hawaii’s Honouliuli Internment Camp, and 21,000 newly protected acres surrounding the Arkansas River in Colorado’s Browns Canyon.
These designations mean the land is protected under the federal government and are public lands for use to use and enjoy, much like the Washington Monument in Washington DC. The Wilderness Society does a great job of explaining what exactly these new monuments have to offer as our newest public lands:
Browns Canyon is a scenic 22,000-acre stretch of public lands along the Arkansas River in Chaffee County, between Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado. These lands are managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The Wilderness Society has been working to protect the natural values of the Browns Canyon landscape since the early 1970s.
The Honouliuli camp on the island of O’ahu was the last, largest and longest operating internment camp during World War II. By acknowledging past injustices, this site honors the experiences of those interned and allows us to enlighten future generations.
The historic Pullman district in Chicago honors a unique, shared legacy that is integrally connected to the push for fair labor conditions and civil rights. The community represents the first model industrial town in America.
Lastly, the White House announced the Every Kid in a Park Initiative on Thursday, which provides a free pass for 4th graders and their families to all public lands for a year!
— US Dept of Interior (@Interior) February 19, 2015
Hopefully, this initiative will tie in with the Park Service’s centennial celebration in 2016, as well as help people understand what public lands are. If you need a refresher yourself, check out my blog post about national forests.
The National Park Service had a banner week, and it was all for good. We can send our 4th graders out into our newly designated public lands, or they can choose to enjoy the existing ones. Wherever they (and you!) decide to visit, lets all be sure to get outside!