Parks of the Future

grate along a trail
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail - NPS Photo / Bhoj Rai
Embracing a second century of parks

The National Park Service (NPS) preserves natural and cultural resources in more than 400 national parks across the country for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of all. Not surprisingly, parks are extraordinarily popular with Americans and a growing number of people from around the world. In the years ahead, park visitation is projected to increase and be highly concentrated in a relatively few national parks.

As visitation increases, especially at well-known, scenic parks in the west, the National Park Foundation (NPF) and its partners are harnessing the power of technology and innovation to help NPS plan for the needs of parks and park visitors in the future, while remaining focused on protecting the stunning natural landscapes.

We are expanding the ways people can experience parks, using emerging digital technology to bring parks to people, investing in new and upgraded visitor centers, modernizing campgrounds, and introducing park visitors to lesser-known parks in order to reduce the impact of increased visitation on NPS operations while protecting these pristine natural environments.

Program Highlights

  • Improving the Visitor Experience – A 2020 partnership between NPF, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, NPS, and Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield will support the building of a new, modernized visitor center at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. Once completed, the visitor center will improve interpretative and educational programming, as well as honor the longstanding relationship among NPS and tribes historically associated with the site.

  • Protecting Our Rivers & Trails –The Wild & Scenic Rivers System includes thousands of trails stretching across the U.S. and more than 12,000 miles of protected rivers. In 2018, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, NPF announced its support of 20 projects to enhance the country’s national trails and wild and scenic rivers, as well as provide increased public access. Projects include developing an interactive, user-friendly map of Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Watershed, ensuring free access to personal floatation devices in Redwood National and State Parks, replacing two bridges to equestrian standards along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, and more.

  • Investing in Accessibility – NPF is working to make national parks more accessible to people of varying abilities by supporting renovations to visitor centers, exhibits, parking lots, trails, and restrooms.

  • Expanding Vicksburg National Military Park – A donation of 800 acres of farmland at Vicksburg National Military Park will help preserve the sites of three historic Civil War battles. The new land, donated with the support of NPF, will increase visitor access to recreational opportunities like hiking and wildlife viewing in the park, as well as allow the building of new parking lots and pull-off areas to enhance visitor safety.

  • Enhancing Monuments on the National Mall – Thanks to the generous contributions from philanthropist David Rubenstein, NPF is making monuments on the National Mall shine like never before. In 2019, thanks to contributions to NPF from Rubenstein and Musco Lighting, the Washington Monument reopened to visitors with updated lighting and refurbished elevator system. In 2020, NPF announced Rubenstein's donation of $10 million to create a state-of-the-art museum and enhanced visitor experience at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

  • Teamwork Makes Dreamwork – In 2019 NPF and our partners supported “White Cane” days at Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, inviting over 150 students and educators from Arizona School of the Deaf and Blind to give feedback on a new accessible NPF exhibit. Once completed, the exhibit will feature an innovative wayfinding system that allows people with limited sight and mobility to experience tactile signage along the trail.

  • Electric Vehicle Charging Stations – Alternative fuel vehicles are key to reducing energy consumption and can help NPS meet their energy reduction, economic, and environmental goals. From 2017 through 2019, NPF supported the installation of 100 Electric Vehicles (EV) charging stations in and near 15 different national parks and gateway communities to expand public access and help reduce air pollution.


How You Can Help
By donating to the National Park Foundation, you support programs like these that help meet the needs of park visitors of today and tomorrow.