Celebrate 100 Years of the National Park Service

A Grand Canyon National Park ranger explaining the tasks to becoming a junior ranger. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

A Grand Canyon National Park ranger explaining the tasks to becoming a junior ranger. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

August 25, 2016 – National Park Service Centennial

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its Centennial, honoring the past 100 years of protecting America’s most spectacular and significant places and looking ahead to the next 100 years of conservation.

In some ways, the Grand Canyon experience of 100 years ago looks awfully familiar to the experience of today: Visitors to the Grand Canyon traveled to the rim by steam engine and Model T Ford, slept at the iconic El Tovar Hotel, rode mules down the Bright Angel Trail, and soaked in the sunset from canyon overlooks. Except for those Model Ts, travelers can still enjoy the park much in the same way in 2016, right down to the historic steam engine ride on the Grand Canyon Railway.

That we can still see the canyon as our (great) grandparents did—without amusement parks and neon-blinking motels cluttering every mile of the rim, without mining and drilling operations staining the horizon—is thanks to one hugely important idea of the late 1800s: national parks. If we hadn’t had the foresight to set aside the Grand Canyon and millions of acres of other parks for protection, this country would be a very different place—and, I’d say, a far less magical one. I can’t think of a better reason to raise a glass and join in the celebration for the National Park Service’s Centennial this year.

Anniversaries like this one naturally invite us to look back at the past 100 years, which is why we decided to remember some of the Grand Canyon’s most important and engaging characters in our history section of the website. In the past century, the canyon has been the backdrop to amazing physical feats—like a daring whitewater expedition in 1869 and dozens of pioneering climbs and hikes in the 1950s through the ‘80s—as well as the inspiration for incredible works of art and architecture.

But even more importantly, the National Park Service’s Centennial is inspiring the people of the park service to look ahead to the next 100 years. Both Director of the National Park Service Jonathan Jarvis and former Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park David Uberuaga stressed to me how important it is for the parks to connect with younger, more diverse citizens in the future. “We need to look forward and continually… find new audiences for these special places,” Uberuaga said. “The Centennial is not blowing out a candle and moving on. It’s an opportunity to transform and protect the park service for the next 100 years.”

That sounds like even more of a very good thing. Here’s to the next 100 years of America’s most beloved places—and beyond!