Zinke Celebrates 101st Birthday of National Park Service at Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway
Trip also focused on improving park experience by expanding public-private partnerships, clearing maintenance backlog, and upgrading infrastructure
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke celebrated the 101st birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) Friday with employees, volunteers, and youth corps members while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Along with celebrating the birthday, the Secretary’s trip focused on ways to make the National Park experience even better for today’s visitors and future generations by cutting excessive bureaucracy, increasing public-private partnerships, and clearing the maintenance backlog.
At Great Smoky Mountains, the Secretary hiked with volunteers and helped youth corps members repair Rainbow Falls Trail. Highlights from Blue Ridge Parkway included visiting with staff at the Mt. Pisgah campgrounds and taking in views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 101 years of our unparalleled National Parks than with amazing employees, volunteers, and young nature enthusiasts experiencing the beauty of the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains,” Secretary Zinke said.
To celebrate the birthday, free admission is being offered at the more than 400 national parks across the country.
“As we recognize another year of these amazing places, we ask every person to join in the celebration—whether it’s a walk through the National Mall or a hike on the Highline Loop at Glacier where I grew up,” Secretary Zinke said. “In my time as Secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the men and women working every day to protect these places. Without them, we wouldn’t be celebrating today. It’s my commitment to continue to focus on infrastructure and maintenance to ensure that during the next 101 years, future generations can experience the same wonder and inspiration that past generations have.”
In addition, to highlight 101 years of service to the American people, a special NPS 101 content series is highlighting lesser-known parks, stories and experiences through social media including @NatlParkService, @Interior and @SecretaryZinke.
Special Events and Free Admission
With 417 parks across the country, plus national trails, rivers, heritage areas, and more, there are countless ways to celebrate the 101st birthday of the NPS. Many parks and programs are planning special events, including:
● Independence National Historical Park (Pa.) is hosting national park trivia at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
● Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Neb.) is offering a behind-the-scenes look at unusual items in the park’s collections.
● Obed Wild & Scenic River (Tenn.) will host an Art in the Park party for the birthday.
● Music-lovers can cap off their summer with free concerts at Gateway National Recreation Area (N.Y.) and Shiloh National Military Park (Tenn.).
Impact of Parks
National Parks added $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy last year, while supporting over 300,000 jobs. Many of these jobs – at restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops – are in local communities around the park, strengthening the American retail, transportation, hospitality, and outdoor recreation industries.
“National Parks are a driving force of the American economy,” Secretary Zinke said. “They are also impactful in ways that can’t be measured in figures. On the National Park Service’s 101st birthday, it’s important to rediscover the true meaning of the National Park experience. That experience isn’t one of long lines and traffic jams; it’s one of breathtaking sights and stories unique to the national treasures that are our parks. To that end, we’re working tirelessly at Interior to keep the promise of this experience for the American people.”