As we anticipate the cool fall weather in this scorching summer heat, consider making plans to visit a national park in 2016 to share in this momentous occasion of 100 years in American history.
On August 25, 2016, the National Parks Service will celebrate 100 years of preserving the natural and cultural resources of America’s history for the education, enjoyment, and outdoor recreation of all generations. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act to create the National Parks Service. National parks are now a collection of 412 areas composed of approximately 84 million acres of pristine mountains and trails, beautiful bodies of water, and historical monuments and memorials.
The National Parks Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior, employs 22,000 individuals, with yearly visits from around 305 million people, creating a $92 billion economic impact. Each national park across the country is nestled into local communities that work to preserve America’s stories.
Today, there are 50 designated national parks in America. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was the first national park designated by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The most commonly visited national parks are: Yosemite in California with over 8,000 years of rich history with the giant sequoias and spectacular mountain views in the Grand Tetons; Arches in Utah with 2,000 natural sandstone arches; 277 river miles of the Grand Canyon in Arizona; and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Alabama is home to eight national areas, each offering something for all ages. In 2014, the national areas in Alabama received visits from 792,477 individuals from across the world. Our state’s history has been a focal icon in American history as we are home to the Selma to Montgomery Historical Trail, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site — all key components in African-American rights in America.
Alabama was also home to influential early settlers in our country and you can view their early beginnings at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, Natchez Trace National Parkway in Northwest Alabama, and Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport.
Alabama joins nine states to create the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorating the trek of the Cherokee people. The Trail of Tears can be found at the Willstown Mission Cemetery and Cabin Site in Fort Payne, Tuscumbia Landing in Sheffield, and the Waterloo Landing in Waterloo. In Alabama, our stories have shaped the American legacy we appreciate today.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks.” The National Park Service works each and every day to preserve the beauty of the American story. Some of my fondest childhood memories are exploring the historic parks across the country, learning what makes America the best country in the land. As part of the Centennial Celebration, the National Parks Service is offering free admission days Aug. 25 through 28, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11. Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity to see America the Beautiful.
Kay Ivey is the lieutenant governor of Alabama. Elected in 2010, she was the first Republican woman to hold the office in Alabama’s history.