Wonder Calls in Our National Parks

Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
A hiker looks up at giant sequoia trees as light filters through the green and brown branches
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - iStock / kapulya

For more than a century, our national parks have given shape to our multi-faceted and multicultural story. The over 400 national parks protected by the National Park Service (NPS) honor our differences and remind us everything we have in common. Parks tell the ever-evolving story of who we are – our heritage and our history, in its struggles and triumphs. National parks are places that belong to us all, and we all have a place in them.   

The National Park Foundation (NPF) works to connect people everywhere to the wonder of our national parks, protect wildlife and park lands, educate and engage youth, and preserve history and culture. We do it in collaboration with NPS, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. We are dedicated to supporting parks for present and future generations, because national parks don’t just stand for where America has been – they inspire where we go next. 

Our Land

A natural stone bridge, with two people underneath and a canyon in the background.

Natural Bridge at Death Valley National Park

NPS Photo / Kurt Moses

Some of the first national parks were designated to protect the natural resources of America’s vast and diverse landscape. From the Pacific coast and the rugged Canyonlands National Park in the west to the rocky shores off Acadia National Park in the east, the flourishing natural world preserved in national parks continues to inspire and strike awe in visitors.   

From trail maintenance and developing new wildlife viewing areas to restoring habitats and native populations of fish and wildlife, the National Park Foundation supports a variety of projects in parks that protect the natural resources found in parks. In 2020 alone, NPF helped protect 27 different wildlife species, planted nearly 50,000 plants and trees, protected more than 1,300 acres of lands, and removed more than 40,000 pounds of trash and litter from parks. These vital efforts will continue to ensure that these treasured places continue to be protected and enjoyed for generations to come. 

Our Culture

Large room with terra cotta-colored tile floor, a balcony, large arched windows, and creamy white tiled vaulted ceiling

The Registry Room at Ellis Island National Monument

NPS Photo

Our national parks also interpret and honor our collective history. They preserve the stories of the communities that lived in the pueblos in the southwest and the soldiers at Bunker Hill as well as the "Rosies" during World War II and the heroes of Flight 93. They tell the story of our nation’s journey, with all its struggles and triumphs. It’s a story written at Independence Hall, where we reached for high ideals, and the times we fell far short, such as the massacre at Sand Creek and the internment camps at Manzanar National Historic Site.

“History is not a track of simple stories. It is being able to see nuances and distinctions, being able to think critically and analyze, and history is about the past, but it as much about the present as it is the past.” – Dr. Sylvia Hollis, NPS Mellon postdoctoral fellow in gender and sexuality

NPF is committed to supporting NPS in its efforts to tell a more expansive history of our nation through national parks. By supporting new parks that illuminate lesser-known stories in our nation's history like Camp Nelson National Monument as well as helping to develop fresh and relevant interpretative strategies by supporting the National Park Service Mellon Humanities Fellowships, NPF strives to enhance storytelling in our parks. In 2020, we announced 23 inaugural Women in Parks grants to help preserve and elevate women’s stories in parks and women’s contributions to our country and we continued our commitment to telling the stories of African Americans by providing over $2.8 million to 10 NPS sites, including Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Our Leaders

Desk with a telephone, typewriter, and pamphlet on top

Typewriter at Mary McLeod Bethune National Historic Site

NPS Photo / Victoria Stauffenberg

Many parks tell the stories of specific individuals and communities that led bold movements that have shaped our experiences, culture, and our collective history. The birthplace of the labor movementthe site of the first Women's Rights Conventionthe hometown of jazzthe training facilities used by the Tuskegee Airmenthe site of the Stonewall uprising – all of these places and more are preserved by the National Park Service. They remind us that generations of Americans, inspired by figures like Susan B. Anthony, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marsha P. Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and César E. Chávez, have fought and continue to work to create a better, more equal future for us all.   

NPF is committed to amplifying the stories of these iconic Americans and their legacies as preserved by national parks across the country. In 2018, NPF facilitated the purchase of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home and oversaw its transfer to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, and in 2020, a NPF Women in Parks grant supported the development of a new outdoor exhibit honoring and exploring the life and work of Coretta Scott King. In 2020, NPF also providing the funding necessary to acquire the home of Medgar and Myrlie Evers, now designated as Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument. From NPF's continued support of Pullman National Monument to the donation of funds to develop educational materials for Stonewall National Monument, NPF continues to support projects and programs that honor the legacies of American trailblazers.  

Our Parks

Father and son sitting on the edge of cliff overlooking vast landscape at Grand View Point of Canyonlands National Park during sunset

Canyonlands National Park

iStock / CHBD

We experience our national parks in ways unique to us. Perhaps you have a long family tradition of visiting a beloved park, or maybe you’re new to exploring all that national parks have to offer. With over 400 national parks across the country, no matter what brings you to a park, there is always more to discover. For more than a century, national parks have given shape to our multi-faceted and multicultural story, and they hold the power to inspire generations to come. 

NPF helps connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to national parks, encouraging them to explore and support these special places. Whether by increasing accessibility to trails, helping more than 1,000,000 kids get into parks through our Open OutDoors for Kids program, introducing new Junior Ranger programs in parks, or strengthening the park partner community through capacity building grants, NPF is proud to support programs that encourage current and future generations of park enthusiasts to experience and care for our national parks. In 2020, NPF engaged over 4.7 million people through in-park and virtual events and activities and launched a new hybrid learning program to introduce new distance learning techniques that connect students, teachers, and families to the wonders of our national parks.

National parks show us that life can be both beautiful and complex. They embody the essence of a nation forged by the powerful forces of nature, the chronicles of conflict, a spirit of innovation, and an enduring vision of democracy for all. The National Park Foundation is dedicated to supporting our parks – ensuring that they thrive and inspire wonder for generations to come.

Support NPF Today
The National Park Foundation is driven by the generous financial support of our donors and members. Working together, we have a powerful impact on our treasured national parks.

Comments

This blog helped me understand the mission of the NPF. How are you and the National Park Service going to respond to the park being “loved t death.” For the people reading this comment please give suggestions to the NPF, and the NPS.
Andre
McMahon
We’re so happy that this blog helped you understand the National Park Foundation's mission and impact. We’d love to hear your ideas. One of the ways that we’re helping to preserve parks is by restoring beloved trails through the great work of service corps crews. And, we also always encourage people to check out lesser-known parks too. What are some of your favorite lesser-known parks to visit?
NPF
Staff

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