Advancing the Legacy of Our National Parks

Emily KaminNPF Blog
The golden sunrise hitting the orange and red sandstone cliffs with a river running through a valley at Zion National Park

The earliest advocates for the National Park System – people like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Woodrow Wilson – took steps to ensure that the country’s most spectacular locales were recognized as national treasures and protected as such. Their legacy is seen in the splendor of our majestic parks, in the richness of their protected ecosystems, and in the smiles of children whose eyes alight when exploring them. It’s also in the histories and cultures that are passed on to future generations.

The National Park Foundation has the privilege of carrying on this vision – one that will be enjoyed by people of all walks of life, and for years to come. As the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, we work every day to support the parks through projects that rehabilitate historic buildings, conserve species and natural resources, connect students to hands-on learning opportunities, and so much more. And in 2018, the direct impact of our work reached new heights.

The generosity of 217,000 individual donors, as well as support from foundations and corporate partners, helped us to raise nearly $78 million for the National Park Service. In addition, our Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks culminated in 2018, totaling over $550 million for parks, partners, and public lands.

During fiscal year 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Rivers and Trails acts by providing $600,000 to 20 different projects that restored, protected, and increased public access to the country’s national trails and wild and scenic rivers.

New River Gorge National River’s Get Active in the Park program held more than 78 outdoor programs, bringing over 770 local participants from the four surrounding West Virginia counties to the site. Visitors participated in a range of unique programs, including a ranger-led goat walk, where they learned about how goats can be used to combat invasive vegetation, as well as river aerobics, stand up paddle boarding, tai chi, and an entomologist-led Firefly Walk. In addition, 10 volunteers were trained as “Community Captains” so that they can lead their own communities in outdoor activities like these in the future.

We launched new programs like Strong Parks, Strong Communities, which builds the capacity of park Friends Groups to serve their local communities. We also debuted PARKTRACKS, which transports urban dwellers to the wide-open spaces of their favorite national parks with an audio recording of sounds captured by NPS’ Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.

We also funded infrastructure enhancements at national parks that will improve the visitor experience.

We continued to support the Jenny Lake project at Grand Teton National Park by working with their partner, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, to make pathways and overlooks more accessible so that people of all ages and physical abilities can enjoy the view of Jenny Lake’s glacial waters from atop Cascade Canyon.

A project at Mount Rushmore National Memorial returned a historic stairway to its original condition by replacing nearly 70 stairs.

Installation of signage, handrails, and the re-surfacing of trails at Yellowstone National Park made viewing areas safer and the paths to getting there ADA-compliant.

An important part of our mission is to connect people to parks and to inspire the next generation of park stewards. To this end, we support programs that give people the opportunity to experience the magic of our national parks, many for the first time.

We helped deploy conservation and service corps at 38 national parks which gave nearly 700 young adults the opportunity to gain work experience and develop specialized skills, while accomplishing important conservation work including:

  • Building and maintenance of nearly 400 miles of trail
  • Construction of 79 public facilities and rehabilitation of 9 historic structures
  • Restoration of 40 acres of habitat

Northwest Youth Corps deployed an ASL Inclusion Teen Conservation Crew, comprised of American Sign Language users, at several parks throughout the Pacific Northwest. Many of the participants joined the Corps without any real job experience but left with skills, purpose, and a greater sense of self-confidence.

Phill Stasz, Assistant Crew leader of the ASL Inclusion Program says, “the Deaf population, as far as I’m concerned, they need this. They need to see the power of potential and their own empowerment.”

At Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, the ASL members eradicated invasive weeds and completed trail work as part of a massive park-wide effort. While at Olympic and Mount Rainier national parks, they constructed trails, steps, turnpikes, retaining walls, and numerous drainage structures.

We awarded $2 million in field trip grants via our Open Outdoors for Kids program, which gave students from 2,094 schools the opportunity to experience their classroom curriculum first-hand at nearby national parks. Field trip grants are provided to underserved students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit national parks and public lands. During the past school year, Open Outdoors for Kids served approximately 79% of all Title 1 schools in the U.S.

Students at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area stepped back in time to discover how Native American communities lived in the mountains for more than 10,000 years. They studied the indigenous civilizations of the Chumash and Tongva and hiked along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River to learn about the California gold rush.

While at Everglades National Park, fourth graders traveled by tram for 15 miles through Everglades wetlands, hiked through a tropical forest of Hardwood trees, and climbed a 60-foot observation tower. They learned about alligators, wading birds, invasive species, and periphyton – the mass of algae that is the foundation of the Everglades food chain.

Our work would not be possible without the support of private philanthropy, so we thank and congratulate all our supporters for another year of great achievements. Your dedication to conservation ensures that our nation’s greatest treasures will be forever cherished. Join us in making 2019 another year of support and stewardship of national parks and programming by donating now.

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