Happy 100th birthday National Park Service! This year the National Park Service is celebrating a century as the caretaker of the national parks, and welcoming the next generation of visitors and supporters to play an active role in stewardship of America’s most treasured places. Community members are invited to join the Find Your Park movement by taking a hands-on role in park conservation and preservation. There are a lot of great ways to get involved, with activities suited to a range of interests.
5 ways to get involved with National Parks:
1. Join the VIPs.
The National Park Service’s Volunteers In Parks (VIP) program engages over 444,000 citizens who donate over 7.9 million hours, which is the equivalent to more than 3,700 additional employees. Thousands of Volunteers help maintain trails, provide visitor services, lead guided nature walks and historic tours, support preservation initiatives, and deliver education programs to youth and school groups. With more than 400 parks in all 50 U.S. states, the engagement opportunities available are as diverse as the parks themselves.
2. Become a Citizen Scientist
Ever dream of discovering a new species? Here is your chance! The parks’ Biodiversity Discovery program has revealed amazing things, and is not just scientists who make these discoveries. Volunteers and students have collected plants and animals that turn out to be rare, new to a park, and sometimes new to science. In 2016, you can join one of more than a 100 National Geographic Society BioBlitz events to help park staff and scientists catalog biodiversity in your local national park. The National Park Service reports that to date, more than 114 national parks and 30,000 people have engaged in this annual BioDiscovery effort, and more than 18,000 species new to parks have been identified.
3. Leave No Trace
Volunteers help maintain 18,000 miles of trails in national parks. If you’re planning to get out and find your park this year, help keep the parks as beautiful and litter free. Go the extra mile by bringing your own garbage bag to pick up any trash you might see along the way! And remember, there are at least 247 species of threatened or endangered plants and animals found in national parks, and you can help protect them by keeping food stores secure and not disturbing the plants, animals and historic artifacts that live there.
4. Be an Artist in Residence
Artists have created art in national parks since the late 19th century. Today, the sights and sounds in national parks continue to inspire artists in more than 50 residency programs across the country. There are programs for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media. Programs vary, but residencies are typically 2 to 4 weeks in length and most include lodging. Often artists are invited to participate in park programs by sharing their art with the public.
5. Try Virtual Volunteering
In the new, free mobile iOS game – Save the Park – you can virtually experience the types of activities and impacts volunteers have in parks. Play all four volunteer characters – Environment Champion, Wildlife Lover, Citizen Scientist and Culture Concierge – across three park environments. And for each download of Save the Park occurring this year, American Express will donate $1 (up to $50,000) to support the National Park Foundation’s conservation and stewardship programs.
This post was contributed through American Express; I was not compensated in any way, just thought it was pretty cool and wanted to share for National Park Week!
Photo credit: Depositphoto