What Park Champions Made Possible in 2017
Park champions had a lot of reasons to celebrate in 2017 – perhaps the most exciting was that the National Park Foundation welcomed our 50th year and reflected on all that has been accomplished over the last 5 decades.
Last year alone, the National Park Foundation funded over $40 million in projects and programs to protect our precious public lands, to connect people to parks, and to engage the next generation of park stewards. This profound impact would not have been possible if not for a passionate community of supporters like you! We are so grateful to everyone who made this year, and the last 50 years, full of successes on behalf of our treasured national parks.
Check out some of our favorite memories and accomplishments from this past year.
Restoring the Washington Monument
One of our beloved and iconic monuments, the Washington Monument, received much needed support to modernize the elevator, increasing long term reliability of the elevator and addressing health and safety issues. Funding enabled upgrades to the elevator and its control system, machine room access, emergency landings in the stairwell, and power distribution systems.
This project was made possible by a generous donation from David M. Rubinstein, who has significantly contributed to multiple patriotic philanthropic projects benefitting the National Park System. Mr. Rubinstein shared, “The monument has become a symbol of our country, and reminds every one of the towering strengths of our first president.”
Construction Begins on Flight 93
In 2017, the National Park Foundation granted over $5.4 million to the Flight 93 National Memorial to complete the final design of the Tower of Voices and begin construction. The tower, which will contain 40 wind chimes (each with a unique tone to symbolize the voices of each lost on Flight 93), commemorates the bravery of the 40 passengers and crew members who sacrificed their lives on September 11, 2001.
Funding also supported reforestation efforts in the surrounding area and projects in the visitor’s center, including an initiative to collect, document, transcribe and digitize more than 800 oral histories relating specifically to 9/11, and the story of United Flight 93. The tower is scheduled to be completed in September 2018.
Bringing Learning to Life
For many years, the National Park Foundation has provided opportunities for youth of all ages and backgrounds to experience the wonders of the national parks. In 2017, we supported various projects and programs targeted toward engaging youth across the nation.
The Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) program brought over 175,000 4th grade students to national parks last year. EKIP provides transportation funds to underserved and urban students so that they may access their public lands and experience bringing classroom lessons to life through interactive exploration. With cutbacks in school funding for field trips, this was the only field trip many of these students had all year.
In addition to our ongoing support of EKIP, we connected youth to parks through service programs like SAMO Youth, which employed college-bound students from under-served communities to work over the summer in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. At Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, over 7,000 youth were led through hands-on scientific exploration and citizen science field experiences.
The national parks are tremendous educational assets with endless opportunities for learning – from history, to science, to health and wellness. We are excited to continue supporting efforts that connect the next generation of park stewards to their public lands in 2018.
In a year full of exciting milestones and firsts, the National Park Foundation funded the pilot program Summit Seekers, designed to foster meaningful engagement for diverse audiences to national parks. Together with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Groundwork DC, Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, and the Student Conservation Association, we launched an inter-generational outdoor leadership training program for fifty-one Summit Seeker ambassadors in Washington, D.C. and East Bay, CA.
This innovative program gave participants exposure to multiple national parks and experiential outdoor activities, as well as community-building and leadership development opportunities. As one participant affirmed, “Who better to inform strategies for diversifying the environmental movement than the very people we are trying to engage?”
21st Century Conservation Service Corps
Our national parks offer powerful place-based learning experiences through programs such as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps which recruits youth and veterans for jobs that protect, restore, and enhance our parks. Corps members gain valuable training, skills, and work experience while also participating in important conservations and restoration work.
At Glacier National Park, youth worked on a multi-year project to increase accessibility on the Swiftcurrent Lake Trail. The 2.5-mile trail is located near the recently restored Many Glacier Hotel and offers visitors spectacular views of shining waters and magnificent mountains. The project, which began in 2011, allowed youth crews to work this summer to continue to create a level trail that can be accessed and enjoyed by people of all ages.
As 2018 begins, we are eager to continue our work of addressing critical park and programmatic needs and providing opportunities for everyone to enjoy our amazing national parks. Help us support powerful initiatives like these to ensure our parks continue to thrive not only in 2018, but for next 50 years and beyond.