August 25, 2016 - National Park Service Centennial
We’re Just Getting Started!
The NPS Centennial isn’t just about celebrating an incredible past—it’s also a chance to look ahead to an even more incredible future.
In some ways, the Rocky Mountain National Park experience of 100 years ago looks awfully familiar to the experience of today: Visitors can still marvel at the same wildflower-filled meadows, spy elk and moose, bunk in rustic cabins, ride horses to pristine alpine lakes, and even climb Longs Peak (though today’s modern hiking boots have probably made that endeavor at least a little more comfortable). Private owners haven’t carved up the park into gated summer homes; mining operations haven’t scarred the landscape or polluted the streams. The park remains a natural oasis for all to visit and enjoy.
That we can still largely see the Rocky Mountain National Park our grandparents and great-grandparents did is a testament to the power of one hugely important idea of the 1800s: national parks. If we hadn’t had the foresight to set aside this slice of alpine paradise in northern Colorado plus millions of other acres of wilderness for protection, this country would be a very different place—and, I think it’s safe to say, a much less magical one. National parks have become a part of the country’s DNA, so it’s easy to forget that land conservation was not a foregone conclusion in the 19th century. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the extraordinary group of dedicated conservationists who fought for a radical idea: Some places are special enough to be protected, for everyone, for all time. I can’t think of a better reason to raise a glass and join the celebration of the National Park Service’s Centennial this year.
Anniversaries like this one naturally invite us to look back at the past 100 years, which is why we decided to remember some of the most important people in Rocky Mountain NP’s history in the history section of our website. These mountains have spoken to, inspired, and attracted hunters, pioneers, guides, adventurers, and scientists for far more than a century, from the Native Americans who summered here for thousands of years to the writers, conservationists, and entrepreneurs who made it their mission to help others experience the park’s alpine grandeur.
But even more importantly, the Centennial is inspiring the people of the park service to look ahead to the next 100 years. Both Director of the National Park Service Jonathan Jarvis and Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Charley Money stressed to me how vital it is for the parks to connect with the younger, more diverse citizens of the future. The parks will only thrive into the next century with the help of a passionate new generation—and the NPS and its partner nonprofits are hard at work making that happen.
That sounds like even more of a very good thing. Here’s to the next 100 years of America’s most beloved places—and beyond!
- Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Editor, National Park Journal