On August 25th, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act which created the National Park Service.
Prior to the Act the few existing National Parks were under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, but each park was managed independently. This was done with varying degrees of success, and varying degrees of mismanagement.
The Act mandated that the new service “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Today the National Park Service manages not only our 59 National Parks, but also monuments, battlefields, historic sites, wild and scenic rivers, trails, lakeshores, etc. There are 20 different designations for the units comprising the National Park System.
The National Park Service currently manages 412 areas covering more than 84 million acres. All of this land belongs to you. In 2015 over 307 million people visited these national treasures.
The National Park Service is also responsible for 16 of the 19 World Heritage Sites located in the United States, including our very own Olympic National Park.
Those of us in the greater Seattle area know the joy of living surrounded by natural splendor. All it takes is a glimpse of Mount Rainier on a clear day to make you gasp and not take it all for granted.
We are so lucky to be within relatively easy distance of three National Parks (Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades). We can even photograph two of them from local city and county parks. Though of course, photography is better undertaken at a much closer distance from within or near the parks.
To celebrate the National Park Service’s Centennial, entry to all National Parks is free through Sunday, August 28th. Now is a good time to take an impromptu trip to one of our National Parks, especially since the weather will be perfect for such an outing.
If you don’t have the time or gas money for that, you can always go to a local viewpoint and bask in the glory of purple mountain majesties from a distance.