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21 New National Park Projects Promote Community Building & Exploration


WASHINGTON – Twenty-one new projects at national parks across the country will give kids and adults the opportunity to come together with their neighbors to recreate, learn, and have fun thanks to Active Trails grants from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks.

The 21 grants announced today total $485,000 and provide funding for parks across the country to collaborate with community partners to offer a variety of activities for people of all ages.

“National parks offer great spaces to build community. Whether it is admiring a dark night sky, walking in the footsteps of your ancestors, or taking part in a fun outdoor challenge, our Active Trails grants make it possible for people from all backgrounds to engage in activities that bring us together in national parks,” said Susan Newton, senior vice president of grants & programs at the National Park Foundation.

“As the National Park Service enters its second century of service, connecting more people to parks, trails, and heritage areas builds on the success of our centennial and prepares us for the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System in 2018,” said Rita Hennessy, the National Park Service National Trails System program manager. “These grants will encourage new generations of visitors to build their own connections to America’s remarkable places, where they can be active and inspired.”

Since 2008, the National Park Foundation has granted nearly $3.8 million through its Active Trails program. As of early 2016, Active Trails has engaged more than 15,000 volunteers and nearly 900 project partners.

Collaborations between schools, teachers, youth groups, Friends Groups, and other partner organizations make each grantee’s project possible. Examples include:

  • Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (Kansas) Students from Topeka, Kansas will kick-start the development of a heritage trail that spans five miles through four urban neighborhoods and connects ten heritage sites including Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, two Network to Freedom sites, multiple National Register of Historic Places sites, the Kansas River National Water Trail, and a future Oregon-California Trail park. Students will research, design, and paint interpretive sidewalk murals that depict the historic connections between each of the heritage sites along the trail. They will also collect oral histories from cross-generational audiences during a community event.
  • Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) The park and Grand Canyon School will host “Phantom Challenge” (named in honor of Phantom Ranch at the base of the canyon) to encourage underserved community members to get outdoors and explore the park. The challenge is a race to see who can exercise the length of the Grand Canyon (277 miles!) over the course of a year. A display board at the local school will visually track the student miles. They can walk, run, snowshoe, bike, etc. to get the miles, as long as they do it outside. Each month the school will host 1-2 weekend activities designed for the community to get outside together and recreate.
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (Maine) In partnership with the Bangor YMCA, the park will offer youth and seniors of eastern Maine a variety of activities including snowshoeing, hiking, biking, canoeing, trail restoration, and camping under the stars.
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Montana) and Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky) Both parks will implement new “Night Sky” programs. At Mammoth Cave, the thick forest canopy blocks city lights along the horizon making nighttime in the park very dark - a rarity in the eastern United States. Visitors to Little Bighorn can witness the soldiers' last night sky before their fateful encounter at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and learn how American Indians would have interpreted the sky in their own cultures.
  • War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam) This “Discovery” project will engage at-risk youth in trail and habitat improvement activities to protect the park’s resources and connect them to their heritage. Additionally, the project will engage a terrestrial biologist and other traditional plant use experts to develop interpretive signage and an app, and to present at field days to educate locals and visitors about these vital plant resources.

The entire list of the 2017 Active Trails recipients can be found here.

The Active Trails projects are great examples of the countless ways there are to #FindYourPark. Launched in March 2015, Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque is a public awareness and education movement to inspire people from all backgrounds to connect with, celebrate, and support America’s national parks and community-based programs. #FindYourPark invites people to discover and share their own unique connections to our nation's natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history.

The National Park Foundation wishes to thank The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation for their generous support of the Active Trails program.

More than 25,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards. In 2016, commemorating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the Foundation launched The Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks, a $350 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to strengthen and enhance the future of these national treasures for the next hundred years. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at