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Every April, thousands of people flock to America’s National Parks for one simple reason: National Parks Week. When I first heard about this event, I had a list of questions: What is National Parks Week? Why is it a thing? Where is the nearest National Park to me? The list went on and on. After hours of pouring over search results, I compiled answers to all my biggest questions into a short list for all.
What is a National Park?
A national park is defined as “a large area of public land set aside for native plants, animals and the places in which they live. It’s a place where native plants and animals can live and grow with as little as possible human interference."
What is National Parks Week?
National Parks Week is a weeklong celebration of our national heritage. With the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, the United States became the first country in the world to establish a National Park. Now, over 100 nations have at least one national park, adding up to over 1,200 national parks worldwide!
Why do we need national parks?
I believe the obvious reason is for preservation. Wildlife has been hunted in excess and in some cases, pushed to extinction. Unfortunately, these actions have existed since the discovery of North America. The creation of national parks has helped to preserve the native and natural beauty of the “new world” for generations to come.
Writer and historian Wallace Stegner summed up the national parks wonderfully with this quote: "the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
What do I get out of National Park Week?
You can find some of the highlights of National Parks Week here.
- April 15–16: Free admittance to all U.S. National Parks!
- April 15: Junior Ranger Day - many parks run programs aimed at getting youth involved with national parks, and the chance to earn a Junior Ranger Badge!
- April 22: Earth Day - Join a volunteer project or simply enjoy the natural wonders and wildlife preserved in national parks.
- April 22-23: Free admittance to all U.S. National Parks!
How can I find a national park near me?
With over 400 national parks located in the United States, there is probably a park near you! If you are unsure, the National Park Service has a free tool that allows you to search for national parks by your state!
Why should I care?
The National Parks System is one of America’s greatest treasures. Without the establishment of National Parks, the entire continent may have been taken over by concrete and farmland! Though it is sometimes hard for us to realize in our day-to-day lives, there is a beautiful world of nature out there just waiting to be explored. Get out and explore!
How are you celebrating National Parks week? Let us know in the comments below!