WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On the heels of President Obama's signing of the National Park Service Centennial Act, today the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation unveiled an impressive summary of the agency's accomplishments, achieved with its partners and unprecedented public engagement, during its year-long 100th anniversary celebrations, and prepared to use the momentum and support that resulted from the centennial to launch into its second century of service.
From the outset, the National Park Service established a centennial goal, to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. Working with the National Park Foundation, NPS launched the Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque movement to engage with younger audiences, while also celebrating with all Americans who love the national parks. More than one in three millennials became familiar with the Find Your Park campaign, which garnered nationwide attention through print and web media, public service announcements, public relations, live events, social media campaigns and donated advertising.
"I like to say the NPS is the only federal agency with a mandate to ensure the public has fun, and the centennial certainly has been a lot of fun," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "But more importantly, the centennial allowed us to inspire and invite a new generation to take on the mantle of responsibility for their national parks and public lands and the stories that these places tell about us as Americans."
"The unique opportunity of the National Park Service Centennial has helped people discover that our national parks are as diverse as the people who visit them and that there is something for everyone across the National Park System," said National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. "The incredible Find Your Park movement that we've built with the National Park Service and our corporate partners will continue to inspire people to explore and support these treasured places."
Throughout the NPS Centennial celebration, the National Park Service and its partners conducted a broad range of activities and efforts to celebrate national parks and engage more Americans in their parks and public lands.
Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque Reached New and Diverse Audiences
Since its kick-off, the Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque campaign has engaged hundreds of millions of people across the country and throughout the world. In 2015 and 2016, the National Park Foundation's Find Your Park Expedition invited more than a dozen diverse social media personalities and bloggers to explore national parks and virtually bring along people everywhere by sharing their experiences online. The NPS and NPF strengthened their work with organizations whose mission is to connect and reconnect diverse audiences with parks, and will continue to build on those partnerships to ensure that national parks and their programs are accessible to all and tell a more complete story.
The centennial and Find Your Park also saw great success on social media. The national parks were organically trending topics on both Facebook and Twitter during National Park Week in April 2016 and on the 100th birthday in August. During the centennial year, NPS national social media accounts added more than 1.2 million followers, while millions more followers were added to the 800-plus park and program accounts on multiple platforms. Additionally, traditional media coverage of national parks in 2016 is slated to eclipse any coverage measured in recent years.
In 2017, the NPS will study changes in public awareness of parks and other NPS programs, as well as recent visitor demographics, which will add to the understanding about the impact of centennial activities on public awareness of the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.
Engaging Students in National Parks
One of the nationwide initiatives celebrating the NPS Centennial was President Obama's Every Kid in a Park initiative. This visionary program invited all 4th graders and their families to visit public lands with a free entrance pass to all Federal public lands and waters, including national parks. In the program's first year, more than 100,000 passes were issued at national parks.
Additionally, the National Park Service worked with partners to bring hundreds of diverse youth corps participants into parks, providing opportunities for young people to experience the broad array of professional career opportunities available in national parks.
Thousands of Events Celebrated the Centennial
Throughout 2015 and 2016, parks, programs, and partners across the country hosted high profile events and special programs to celebrate the centennial, from the 2016 Rose Parade, to a performance by Mary Lambert at Stonewall National Monument, to a 100-park nationwide bioblitz and a solar car challenge relay across nine national parks. Celebrity events, concerts, 100-mile hikes, a national "picnic in the park" and thousands of other activities offered a variety of ways for visitors to join the centennial celebration.
Since the launch of the Find Your Park campaign by the NPS and NPF in March 2015, more than 3,200 centennial events were published on the national calendar on nps.gov and FindYourPark.com.
Looking Ahead: Find Your Park in 2017 and Preparing for a Second Century of Service
The centennial will leave a long-term legacy for the NPS that will continue beyond 2016. In planning for this benchmark moment for the National Park Service, the NPS and its partners articulated a vision for the agency's second century of service and outlined a framework for achieving that vision in "A Call to Action," released in 2011 and updated each year since. The NPS has made significant progress in advancing the objectives of the Call to Action: connecting more people to parks in America's communities, advancing the NPS education mission, strengthening its preservation and conservation of America's special places, diversifying its workforce, and engaging the next generation of park stewards and supporters.
Initiatives started in 2015 and 2016 will continue to develop, including Every Kid in a Park, Centennial Challenge projects, increased engagement with youth service corps organizations, new and improved facilities, the NPS Urban Agenda, and more. In addition, the NPS and NPF will build on the public-private partnerships created and strengthened through the centennial to leverage more public and private support for parks and NPS programs.
The National Park Service Centennial Act will provide new tools, revenue and authorities that will help the NPS meet the challenges of its second century. Among its many provisions, the bill establishes an endowment fund with the NPF for projects and activities in support of the NPS mission, extends hiring eligibility of participating youth in the Public Lands Corps, and affirms the importance of interpretation and education in pursuit of the NPS mission.
Planning is underway to evaluate and build on the success of Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque as the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, and other partners will continue the momentum of the campaign in 2017. The Find Your Park movement will continue to engage new audiences, especially during National Park Week in April and the NPS 101st birthday in August. NPS and its partners invite the public to explore new parks, build personal connections to the remarkable places in their communities, and find ways to help ensure that future generations are able to experience America's treasures. Some of the most admired companies in the world are supporting the National Park Foundation's efforts for Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque, including American Express, Budweiser, Subaru, REI, Humana and Disney. Additional partners include Coleman and Coca-Cola.
More information about the success and long term legacy of the NPS Centennial is available online here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/success.htm.
About the National Park Service
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
About the National Park Foundation
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.
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SOURCE National Park Foundation