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Four campers sit beside a tent and look out onto a mountainous landscape
Campers at Denali National Park & Preserve
NPS Photo / Kent Miller
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Reflecting on a Year of Achievements in Our National Parks

Celebrating the highlights of 2020, made possible by NPF's community of park champions
By Emily Kamin

The new year is upon us and it presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on 2020 before we embark on the adventures ahead. Throughout 2020, many found comfort and escape in the wonders of our country and discovered a newfound appreciation for nature and the outdoors. The National Park Foundation is proud to help protect the 85 million acres of land and water that encompass the National Park System and to connect people to the natural, historical, and cultural treasures that they offer. Join us in celebrating some of our proudest accomplishments from the past year.

Protected Wildlife

A brown wolf stares into the camera. A snowbank reaches the wolf's neck
Wolf in Yellowstone National Park (NPS / Jim Peaco)

We helped preserve the precious species and habitats that inhabit our national parks, including wolves, golden eagles, and cutthroat trout at Yellowstone National Park, bonneted bats in Everglades National Park, salmon at Olympic National Park, and elk at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. 

We provided financial support to Glacier National Park as they prepare for the potential return of bison to the park for the first time in 150 years. This funding allows the park, Wildlife Conservation Society, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Blackfeet Tribe to evaluate the impact of the bison’s return on the park’s habitat, its diverse species, and its cultural resources. 

Preserved Historic Landmarks

NPF provided funding and support to projects that help preserve and restore historic landmarks that commemorate important moments in our nation’s history.

Pullman National Monument - clocktower facade
Clocktower building at Pullman National Monument - NPS Photo / K George

Pullman National Monument is Chicago’s first National Park Service unit and commemorates pivotal moments in the nation’s labor and civil rights history, including the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American labor union.

With the support of NPF and our donors, NPS started construction on a new visitor center at the iconic Pullman Administration Clock Tower Building. The new visitor center will have audio and visual exhibits that tell stories of industrial innovation and workers' struggles for economic and social equity at Pullman. The new Visitor Center and its exhibits are expected to open to the public in summer of 2021.

Invested in the Next Generation of Park Stewards

Four crew members, wearing hard hats, smile for a photo
Northwest Youth Corps Rainbow Conservation Crew (Northwest Youth Corps)

NPF committed $3.8 million to service corps programs which give young adults and veterans the opportunity to accomplish critical maintenance projects at national parks while developing technical skills for future careers. NPF supported service corps programs at parks across the country in 2020, including the all-women Great Basin Institute resource crew at Great Basin National Park. These corps members worked alongside NPS staff on a variety of projects, including acoustic bat monitoring, campsite maintenance, and the building of a 500-foot stone retaining wall on the Bristlecone Pine Trail.

The Northwest Youth Corps NYC-NPS Inclusive Conservation Crew deployed 18 young adults, all of whom identify as LGBTQ+ at parks in Oregon and Washington. At Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, crew members removed noxious weeds from six and a half acres before catching dragonfly larva out of the Yeon Lake to measure atmospheric mercury levels.

Shared Untold Stories

Debuting this year, NPF's Women in Parks initiative supports projects and programs that help NPS tell a more comprehensive and inclusive American narrative, including the stories of Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color.

NPS New Women's Uniforms - 1971
Introduction of the new women's uniforms at Independence National Historical Park in 1971. (L to R); Marion Riggs, Carole Scanlon, Louise Boggs, Inger Garrison, Ellen Lang, Elaine Hounsell, and Helen Hartzog - NPS Photo

In 2020, NPF provided 23 inaugural grants totaling more than $460,000 in funding as part of its Women in Parks initiative to unearth, preserve, and highlight women's stories at national parks. The grants will help connect people with these stories through physical and digital park exhibits, guided walks, talks and special events, digital content, and more.

As part of the Women in Parks initiative, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park will create an in-person exhibit interpreting and celebrating the life and legacy of Coretta Scott King, a leader for the civil rights movement in the 1960s and advocate for African American equality who worked alongside her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Harpers Ferry Center for Media Services at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will create an online exhibit that explores equality and the evolution of women's National Park Service uniforms. The exhibit will invite visitors to draw parallels between women's experiences in NPS and the larger women's movements in the U.S.

Celebrated African American History and Culture

An arched steel bridge over a river
Edmund Pettus Bridge, along Selma to Montgomery National Historical Trail (NPS Photo)

NPF continues to support projects as part of the African American Experience fund, which focuses on celebrating African American history and honoring the sacrifices made by African Americans. In 2020, NPF provided funding to several projects, including an endeavor by the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and the Montgomery Interpretive Center at Alabama State University. This project will utilize interactive immersive technologies, oral histories, and historical narrative to enhance visitors’ interpretive experiences while they learn about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March from the point when the marchers left the City of St. Jude to protest en masse at the Alabama State Capitol.

Connected People to Parks

Family sits on a sofa and completes an activity on paper together
(iStock / BraunS)

We helped people experience the beauty and wonder of our national parks from the safety of their homes. From virtual tours and webcams to educational activities and games, virtual experiences like our digital "parkcade" provided crosswords, coloring pages, national parks trivia, and more to the young and young-at-heart national park lovers.

Supported Park Partners

Christina Hausman Rhode - Friends Alliance - Grand Teton
Christina Hausman Rhode and other members of the Leaders Network at the 2019 Friends Alliance Meeting at Grand Teton National Park - Christina Hausman Rhode

NPS units work closely with their philanthropic partners, oftentimes called friends groups, to raise funds, implement volunteer programs, develop connections with nearby communities, and more. In 2020, NPF helped to build the resiliency and organizational strength of these partners in several ways. We launched our Park Partner Resource Portal, which houses a variety of resources, including communication tools and Resiliency Modules to help organizations strengthen their brand, culture, leadership, strategy, and adapt to times of crisis. Additional modules will be added to the portal next year.

We also produced our Park Partner Report, which provides a comprehensive portrait of the diverse group of partners and their contributions to the National Park System. As part of this endeavor, we gathered and analyzed data, including the total number of park partners in existence, the dollar amount of in-kind support they provide to NPS, and much more.

As always, we thank our dedicated community of park champions who enable us to support NPS year-round. We hope you’re inspired to support important initiatives like these so that our national parks are protected and preserved for future generations.

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