Pondering the Presidents on President’s Day

Since George Washington was elected president in 1789, there have been 43 presidents of the United States. While each president is vastly different from each other in their personalities, political beliefs, and educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: their service to the citizens of the United States.

George Washington’s Birthday, designated by Congress in 1880, was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, and occurs on the third Monday in February. The holiday became widely known as President’s Day in the 1980’s to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12th.

In the 1950’s, a movement headed by Harold Stonebridge Fischer, Executive Director of the President’s Day National Committee, intended to honor the Office of the Presidency, not just the birthdays of our first and 16th presidents. A proposal included in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, sought to change the name of the holiday from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day, but failed in committee, thus maintaining the official name of the holiday as Washington’s Birthday.

Presidents are honored individually by some states, such as Massachusetts, which commemorates the lives of native Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy on May 29th each year. In George Washington’s home state of Virginia, President’s Day is known simply as “George Washington Day”.

Visiting America’s national parks is a great way to learn about the lives and legacies of our presidents, especially since admission is free from 2/15-17. At least 32 National Park Service sites commemorate the lives of these men, plus an additional six parks which relate to the presidency through their wives or historic places in which momentous events occurred, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall.

It seems fitting that five sites are dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the national park system.  An additional five parks honor Abraham Lincoln, from his birth home in Kentucky to Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, where he was assassinated.  The most recent park designated to honor a president is the William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace in Arkansas, which was taken over by the National Park Service in 2011.

There are other sites of significance to the presidency such as First Ladies National Historic Site and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, which honor the wives of our presidents, and the contributions they have made;  Mount Rushmore National Memorial, with its iconic, larger than life tribute to four of our greatest presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt;  And Independence National Historical Park and Federal Hall National Memorial, where visitors can retrace the steps of our founding fathers.

Those who visit the White House and President’s Park will gain a wealth of information about life in the White House. The White House Historical Association offers several exhibits such as White House Architecture, White House Pets, Working White House, and A Brief History of Presidential Inaugurations.

There are many items including books, toys and multimedia available on eParks.com, which document the lives of the presidents and the presidency itself. In honor of President’s Day, eParks.com is offering a 15% discount on all purchases through February 21, 2014 – Enter with Coupon Code LINCOLN15 at checkout. Here is a small sampling:

  256893 abraham lincoln living legacyAbraham Lincoln: A Living Legacy

Abraham Lincoln left an indelible mark on the nation he sacrificed his life to preserve. The National Park Service maintains several sites that figured largely in the life of Abraham Lincoln. An eParks exclusive, this full-color 160 page guide to three Abraham Lincoln National Park sites includes more than 160 photographs, maps and historic images that illustrate the story of one of the greatest men to ever lead this nation! This publication is printed in the USA. Softcover, $11.95.

NOTE: this publication was awarded the National Park Service Director’s Award for Excellence in Interpretive Media in 2010.



By David McCullough

In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man – a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined – but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. Truman’s story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on a wide variety of materials, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary “man from Missouri” who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history. $40.00

258777 hopes_dreams_obamaHopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama

By Steve Dougherty

A lively overview of Barack Obama’s life, this timely book relates the story of his difficult childhood as the son of a Kansas-born mother and a black Kenyan who abandoned the family, through his election to president of the Harvard Law Review (the first black Law Review president ever); his early political career; his own family life with his wife, Michelle, and two daughters; his 2004 election to U.S. Senator; and his emergence as a symbol of hope for America. Including Obama’s own words and comments from both his critics and supporters, Hopes and Dreams is essential reading for people curious to know about the man who has been elected to our nation’s highest office. $12.95.

2-42235cEisenhower: A Soldier’s Life

By Carlo D’Este

With full access to his private papers and letters, the author traces Dwight David Eisenhower’s meteoric rise from hardscrapple poverty in rural Kansas to high command and eventually the presidency. He probes Eisnhower’s public persona and his private encounters with Churchill, FDR, George Patton and other legendary figures of the century. Based on five years of extensive research, this definitive biography ay change your view of this man who helped shpae world history. Author Carlo D’Este has been called one the finest military historians of his generation and his study on Eisenhower deemed “uncompromising, compassionate, brilliant.” Hardcover, 848 pages, $35.00

2-39239cJohn Adams

By David McCullough

In this powerful, epic biography, McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot – “the colossus of independence,” as Thomas Jefferson called him – who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history. Hardcover, 751 pages, $38.00

247618 book_presidentsThe Book of the Presidents

By Vincent Wilson, Jr.

This is a reference and souvenir volume with biographies and gallery portraits of all the Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. 100 pages, $5.95.





3-11195cAbraham Lincoln Sings On! (CD)

Performed by Tenor Douglas Jimerson. This collection of popular patriotic songs, includes a few of Abraham Lincoln’s favorites and is perfect for any music historian. Songs include: Oh! Susanna, The Bonnie Blue Flag, Gentle Annie, and many more! CD, $17.95.





3-19312cFounding Brothers DVD

Based on Joseph Ellis’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Founding Brothers examines six moments when the collisions and collusions of the Founding Fathers left an indelible imprint on the nation: the secret dinner that determined the site of the capital and America’s financial future; Benjamin Franklin’s call for an end to slavery; George Washington’s farewell address to the nation; John Adam’s term as president; Hamilton and Burr’s fatal duel, and the final reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson. Drawing on the words of the founders and incisive commentary from leading scholars, this is an elegant and engaging portrait of America’s origins. Features interactive menus and scene selection. Color, 2 discs, approx. 200 minutes plus extras. Closed-captioning option. $49.95


2-32302cYoung Teddy Roosevelt

By Cheryl Harness

This book briefly traces Teddy Roosevelt’s steady growth-from his boyhood in New York as a weak, asthmatic child to his sudden presidency-is glowingly pictured in this book. For young readers ages 9-12. Hardcover, 48 pages, $17.95.




263007 gw_leads_wayGeorge Washington Leads the Way

By Bentley Boyd

This biography is divided into seven chapters headed by seven words describing Washington’s qualities of leadership.  These words are not exaggerations.  Learn how he used honesty, perseverance, responsibility, innovation, integrity, bravery, and fairness to become a founding father, help the United States win independence, and become the nation’s first president. Softcover, 24 pages, $6.95.




417451 log_cabin_bank Log Cabin Bank

This log cabin bank is representative of the one room cabin 16th President Abraham Lincoln was born in. It’s located at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHP in Hodgenville, KY. This bank is made of real wood  and has a plastic plug on the bottom for removing money that has been saved. It measures about 6 1/4 inches tall. 7 inches wide, and 5 inches deep. $11.95



351085 lincoln_memorial_puzzleRound Lincoln Memorial Puzzle

Henry Bacon was chosen  as the architect fo the Lincoln Memorial, which would be located in Washington, DC. Construction began in 1914, and was based on the Parthenon. Construction was completed in May, 1922, and the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1922. This 140-piece puzzle forms a 13-inch diameter circle and features an image of the statue of Lincoln located at the memorial. The cardboard backing folds into a box to hold the pieces. $14.95.


The African American and Hispanic Legacy in America’s National Parks

Did you know? More than 70 units managed by the National Park Service interpret African American  and Hispanic American history, with themes ranging from slavery and the Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond.

Several books, recently released by the cooperating association Eastern National, highlight the contributions of African Americans such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Colonel Charles Young, the Tuskegee Airmen, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Guidebook to African American History in the National Parks, available on eParks.com

Guidebook to African American History in the National Parks, available on eParks.com

Guidebook to African American History in the National Parks

With an introduction written by Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, this concise guidebook provides an enlightening glimpse into the preservation and interpretation of African American History in America’s national parks. Woven together, these diverse park sites provide a rich tapestry of the legacy of the African American experience. The book includes dozens of historic and modern images of the parks, events and people in which they commemorate. Softcover, 68 pages.

 History of Civil Rights in America: National Park Service Handbook

Written by National Park Service historians, this handbook provides an overview of the civil rights journey in America. From the earliest struggle for freedom from British rule, to the oppression of slavery, and the fight for equality for women and ethnic groups, this book explores the sites within the national park system that interpret this monumental journey. Softcover, 59 pages.

 A March for All: Selma’s Voting Rights Movement

Filled with historic photos, A March for All: Selma’s Voting Rights Movement details the events leading up to the marches, and profiles the individuals who organized, coordinated and participated in the historic Selma to Montgomery Marches; From Sam and Amelia Boynton, the earliest organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma, to the “Courageous Eight,” a dedicated group who risked their lives to end segregation and achieve equality. This insightful book takes the reader beyond the headlines of the day and inside the marches that drew national attention to the issues of segregation and unimpeded voting rights for African Americans. Softcover, 32 pages.

The Life and Legacy of Robert Smalls of South Carolina’s Sea Islands

This book tells the story of the life of Robert Smalls, an enslaved African American, born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1839. During and after the American Civil War, he became a ship’s pilot, a sea captain, and a politician. He freed himself and his family from slavery and was instrumental in the creation of South Carolina’s public school system. He wrote in 1895, “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.” Softcover, 48 pages.

The Moton School Story: Children of Courage

Before the sit-ins in Greensboro, before the Montgomery bus boycott, there was the student strike at the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. In 1951, Barbara Johns led her follow students in protest against the inadequate and overcrowded facilities they faced. Their strike, which changed the course of American history, is the focus of this important publication. Softcover, 36 pages.

Slavery in the United States: A Brief Narrative History, available on eParks.com

Slavery in the United States: A Brief Narrative History, available on eParks.com

Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War

Produced by the National Park Service and published by Eastern National, this book examines the underlying causes of the American Civil War, and the role of slavery in its cause and outcome. Compelling historical images provide the reader with a portrait of the face of slavery and the legacy of those who opposed it. Softcover, 25 pages.

Slavery in the United States: A Brief Narrative History

This book chronicles the history of slavery, documented as early as the 18th century BCE in the Code of Hammurabi, and documents its impact on the United States, from the seventeenth century up to the present day. Slavery in the United States: A Brief Narrative History explores the struggle for freedom by enslaved Africans and the determination of the human spirit to live free. Soft cover, 64 pages.

Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans begin colonization on American soil. St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565, and remains the oldest continuously occupied settlement and port in the United States, therefore possessing a rich and colorful history of Hispanic culture. More than 20 national park sites interpret the impact of Hispanic Americans on our nation’s history. For more information on these sites, see this blog post: https://passporttoyournationalparks.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/explore-latino-heritage-by-visiting-americas-national-parks/

Several books, recently released by Eastern National, highlight these sites and the contributions of Hispanic Americans:

American Latinos and the Making of the United States, available on eParks.com

American Latinos and the Making of the United States, available on eParks.com

American Latinos and the Making of the United States

From the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, American Latinos have influenced US culture, politics, and economics. This book presents an overview of the Latino journey as documented in the experiences of five individuals whose lives trace major historical developments from the early 19th century to today. They include exiled Cuban priest Félix Varela, Mexican American author María Amparo Ruíz de Burton, Puerto Rican historian and collector Arturo Schomburg, Guatemalan civil rights organizer Luiza Moreno, and Mexican American politician Edward Roybal. Their unique and valuable contributions have helped shape our nation. Written by Stephen Pitti, soft cover, 44 pages

Hispanics and the Civil War: From Battlefront to Homefront

More than 20,000 Hispanics fought in the Civil War: some for the Union and some for the Confederacy. Thousands of Hispanic civilians lent their hearts and hands on the homefront. This publication provides a glimpse into some of the lives, stories, and achievements of Hispanics who fought and struggled for a more perfect union. Their stories will help provide inspiration and reflection as the history and legacy of the American Civil War is owned and shared by all. David Vela, National Park Service, Southeast Regional Director. Paperback, 41 pages.

National Parks: Going To The Dogs!

What dog doesn’t like going for a W-A-L-K?

According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 62 percent of households in the United States have pets, which include about 78 million dogs. Many people include their dogs in their travel plans, since placing a dog in a kennel for an extended period of time can be quite expensive, as well as stressful for the dog.

Many national park sites allow dogs on specified trails, and some national park concessioners allow dogs in some lodging facilities, like Xanterra Parks and Resorts at Yellowstone National Park and Delaware North Companies at Shenandoah National Park.

If you plan to bring your dog with you on a visit to a national park, you should be prepared. An important thing to remember is that heat can kill. Be sure to carry enough water for you and your pet. If you travel to a park where dogs are allowed only in specific areas, don’t leave your dog in a hot vehicle or RV while you explore parts of the park that restrict dogs. This practice is generally prohibited at national park sites, and your pet could be impounded.

Buckeye Belle

Buckeye Belle, a retired Search and Rescue, therapy, assistance, champion squirrel/coon/ show and field champion dog. This picture was taken after a long day of visiting Muir Woods National Monument in CA, swimming at Stinson Beach.

Hot sand and rocky terrain can injure the sensitive pads on a dog’s feet, so be sure that Fido’s precious paws are protected. Hiking through wooded areas in parks can pose a danger of ticks, which can spread diseases to you and your pet. Wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself, and check your dog thoroughly after a visit to a park to prevent any ticks from latching on to your dog. Don’t deviate from trails while visiting a park with your dog, since harmful insects and reptiles such as poisonous snakes and spiders can hide in tall grasses and shrubbery.

Some national park sites do not allow dogs, and there are several reasons:

* Dogs can potentially carry diseases that could affect the park’s wildlife. Unvaccinated dogs could spread diseases to park wildlife. Unfortunately, not all pet owners are responsible about keeping their dog’s vaccinations up to date.

* Dogs can unknowingly threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.

* Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dogs, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively. Domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, and their instincts can take over in a situation where they feel threatened or frightened.

* Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in some of the larger wilderness parks. Additionally, if a dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to the owner. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease, and plants that are poisonous or full of thorns and burrs.

* Historic structures, archaeological sites, and sacred grounds are no places for dogs. Fido could unknowingly damage historic buildings or artifacts, disturb important archaeological sites, and walk over or relieve themselves in places that are sacred to Native Americans and other groups.

* Not everyone is a “dog person.” In fact, some people are afraid of dogs, and it is the responsibility of park officials to provide a safe, enjoyable environment for all visitors, even if they aren’t “dog people.” These rules are in place not only to protect your dog, but to protect you and other visitors as well as the environs of the park.

Failure to adhere to a park’s pet policy may result in a citation (minimum fine is $75). 36 CFR 2.15 (Code of Federal Regulations) provides more details concerning pets in National Park Service areas.

Here is a list of a few national park sites that allow dogs, and their specific rules. Check the National Park Service’s website or contact a park directly for individual rules regarding dogs in parks before visiting– each park may have different stipulations based on the location, resources, and environment of the park.

Saratoga National Historical Park, with its rolling hills and gorgeous scenery of the Hudson Valley in New York, is a wonderful place for leashed dogs and their owners to explore. Although dogs are not allowed in the visitor center or inside park buildings, the park offers a tie-up area adjacent to the visitor center entrance, and provides water and waste bags in certain areas.

Horseback Riding at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, via TheRealOuterBanks.com

Horseback Riding at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, via TheRealOuterBanks.com

Dogs are welcome at Cape Hatteras National Seashore! Horses are allowed at Cape Hatteras as well, and can travel anywhere vehicles are permitted to drive except in campgrounds. Horses are required to use ORV (Off Road Vehicle) ramps when crossing dunes. There are some understandable restrictions at Cape Hatteras: Pets are not allowed on designated swim beaches or in buildings, nor are they allowed in protected resource areas such as sea bird and sea turtle nesting areas.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, situated between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is a great place to take your dog. It has more than 100 miles of multi-use trails! Dogs must be restrained on a leash that is six feet or shorter in length on park lands at all times, and they are not permitted in park buildings or on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (exception for service animals).

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky, leashed dogs are welcomed throughout the park’s 24,000 acres. Horses are permitted on designated trails and at the Hensley Camp, White Rocks, and Martins Fork backcountry campsites.

Devils Postpile National Monument in California is so dog-friendly that it includes dogs in its volunteer program, called the “Paw Patrol.” Volunteers patrol the park with their canine companions to help keep visitors educated on the rules associated with dogs at the monument, and to serve as ambassadors on the trails, sharing information with visitors and answering questions.


Clover shows off her Bark Ranger bandana.

Eastern National, a cooperating association at more than 150 national park sites, has introduced the “National Bark Ranger” product line for dogs, which will allow them to show their national park pride. There are several items available in multiple colors, including a leash, collars, bandanas, a poo bag dispenser, a pull toy, and a collapsible water bowl, all emblazoned with the fun “Bark Ranger” logo. These items are available at some national park sites and on eParks.com. Click here to see the full product line.

So get out there and take your dog for a W-A-L-K in a park—it will be great fun for both of you!

Featured Image: Sprocket, a volunteer dog at Devils Postpile National Monument, greets visitors to the park.

National Parks 101: An Introduction to America’s National Parks

Some people would say that a park is a park. But if you’ve ever visited a national park, you might beg to differ.

National park sites preserve lands, buildings, and sites that are naturally, historically, scientifically, or culturally significant to the American people. They are managed by a federal entity known as the National Park Service (NPS), which is governed under the United States Department of the Interior. There are 401 national park sites across the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the territories of Guam and American Samoa.

Hot Springs Reservation, now Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, was the first land to be set aside by Congress for preservation and recreational purposes in 1832. Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was second, and Casa Grande Ruins National Monument was third, in 1889. The conservation movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the work of prominent historical figures such as John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt prompted the establishment of Sequoia, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake national parks. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gave the president power to set aside lands without the approval of Congress, and Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming was established as the first national monument on September 24, 1906.

The Arrowhead: Official Logo of the National Park Service

The Arrowhead: Official Logo of the National Park Service

The NPS was established in 1916 to manage the 30 or so national parks and monuments that had previously been managed directly by the Department of the Interior. Less than two decades later, the NPS went through a reorganization, and about 45 military parks were transferred to the NPS from the War Department, in addition to 13 parks that were transferred to the NPS from the Forest Service. By the NPS’s 50th birthday in 1966, about 225 sites were under its authority.

The mission of the National Park Service states:

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

Today, with a $2.75 billion annual budget and 28,000 employees, the National Park Service manages 84 million acres of park lands, 121 million museum artifacts, 27,000 historic structures, 2,461 national historic landmarks, 582 national natural landmarks, 400 endangered species, 68,000 archaeological sites, and provides administrative support to 49 national heritage areas. [1] About 280 million people visit national park sites each year. The most-visited park is Blue Ridge Parkway (over 15 million visitors in 2012) and the least-visited park is Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve (19 visitors in 2012). [2] Sites range in size from 13,000,000 acres (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK) to .02 acres (Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, PA), and themes include natural, historic, cultural, scientific, and recreational.


Everglades National Park

But what are the parks all about? Some parks commemorate the contributions of great literary figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Eugene O’Neill, and Carl Sandburg. Others preserve sacred Native American sites such as Hohokam Pima National Monument and Aztec Ruins National Monument. American presidents are memorialized at sites like James A. Garfield National Historic Site and Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. Fragile and unique ecosystems are preserved at sites like the Everglades National Park and Congaree National Park. Important and sometimes tragic events in American history are interpreted at sites such as Whitman Mission National Historic Site, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Manzanar National Historic Site.  Great wars and military conflicts are preserved at sites like World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Minute Man National Historical Park, and Gettysburg National Military Park. Cold War history is told at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and Gateway National Recreation Area. Wondrous geologic features are showcased at Lava Beds National Monument, City of Rocks National Reserve, and Devils Tower National Monument. Exploration and Westward expansion is interpreted at Cabrillo National Monument, De Soto National Memorial, and Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Scientific and archaeological discoveries awe visitors at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Thomas Edison National Historical Park. The possibilities to learn, experience, and explore are limitless at America’s national parks, and they are as diverse as the American people themselves.

What’s the difference between a national park and a national monument or a national historic site? The NPS has 19 official designations and an “Other” category. The term “designation” denotes what type of park it is. The “Other” category includes parks in the Washington DC area such as Rock Creek Park and Greenbelt Park, whose designations were not changed when their management was transferred to the NPS from the District of Columbia in 1975. This chart explains the designations:

NPS Designation Chart JPG

Click to enlarge.

National park sites are more than what you could read about in a book; history comes alive when you visit a park. Interesting interpretive programs for people of all ages enhance visitors’ experiences when visiting a park. Special events like historical reenactments and living history demonstrations allow visitors to experience first-hand what life was like for the peoples of the past. Cultural events provide entertainment, enjoyment, and education to visitors who participate in them. Educational programs give visitors different perspectives, and engage and excite children.

A visit to a national park site can offer children an exciting experience, that could influence their future career path and instill in them an understanding and respect for history, nature, science, and culture. Visiting a park can also be a remarkable experience for families as a unit, and provide a family with lifelong memories.

The Passport To Your National Parks® program, launched in 1986, promotes appreciation and visitation of America’s national parks. Start by purchasing a Passport book at eParks.com or at any national park site. The handy, pocket-sized Passport book includes maps and information about national park sites across the country. When you visit a park, “cancel” your Passport book with free cancellation stamps, available at 400 of 401 national park sites. It’s a great way to commemorate your visits, and collecting the stamps can become a family hobby in which everyone gets to participate. The Passport program even has free iPhone and Android Smartphone applications, that act as a companion to the Passport book. Learn more:

More than 280 million people visited national park sites last year. Visit a park near you and begin your journey of discovery. What are you waiting for?

To learn more about the National Park System, visit www.NPS.gov


[1] http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/index.htm

[2] https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/

Songs for Junior Rangers: An Interview with Ranger Jeff Wolin

Have you heard about the new award-winning Songs for Junior Rangers CD? Written by Ranger Jeff Wolin of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, this collection of kid-friendly songs was released recently by the National Park Service, and will have kids singing, dancing, and laughing as they learn fun facts about history and nature. The CD was recently awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold Award by the Parents’ Choice Foundation.

The songs cover a variety of subjects, including elk in “Wapiti Hoppity,” caving in “Spelunka Funka,” glaciers in “Frozen Bulldozin’,” and Mount Rushmore in “Four Presidents.” Musical elements include hip hop, reggae, blues, jazz, rock, zydeco, funk, and even polka. The CD was made possible through a grant from the National Park Foundation and is distributed and marketed by Eastern National. Scroll to the end of this article for some song samples from Eastern National’s YouTube page.

The 20-song CD includes a poster map with a special Junior Ranger game, and a booklet with the lyrics to each song, so kids can sing along. Proceeds from the sales of Songs for Junior Rangers support educational and interpretive programs in national parks.

Cover of the Songs for Junior Rangers CD

Cover of the Songs for Junior Rangers CD

Along with Ranger Jeff Wolin, Rangers Matt Hampsey and Bruce Barnes from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park appear on the album, as well as many talented New Orleans musicians. Navajo singer/songwriter Krishel Augustine and the Youth Ambassador Program from New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park are featured on the CD, in addition to celebrity guests such as the A Capella group Committed, Grammy Award-nominated children’s group Trout Fishing in America, and PBS personality Aaron Nigel Smith. The CD has already won several prestigious awards, including the National Park Service’s Freeman Tilden Award and a top honor from DadNabbit, a popular children’s music blogger. Songs for Junior Rangers also recently won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award®.

“These witty songs are a great way for children to discover the wonders of national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The official motto of the Junior Ranger Program is ‘Explore, Learn, and Protect’ national parks and I think this music will certainly inspire children to do just that.”

We recently interviewed Ranger Jeff Wolin to learn more about his music and how the Songs for Junior Rangers CD came to fruition.

Hi Jeff, and thanks for talking with us today.  We love the new Songs for Junior Rangers CD!

Thanks! We are all really excited about it too.


Where are you from originally? Which college did you attend?

I was born and raised in Elmhurst, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and studied Geography.


What inspired you to become a park ranger? How long have you been with the National Park Service? What is your favorite part of the job?

I did an internship through an organization called the Student Conservation Association at Isle Royale National Park. After a summer living on an island in Lake Superior and hanging out with lots of moose I had no doubt that I would be a Park Ranger for the rest of my career.  I’ve been a Park Ranger for 18 years. It’s really hard to pick one “favorite” part of the job. I LOVE my job. All I can do is give you a list of favorite things:  working in beautiful and historic places, the sense of mission to protect the beautiful and historic places, that passionate and fun people that I work with, and the amazing people I meet in the visitor center and out on the trails, and finally being able to tell the stories of these powerful places.


How long have you been at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument? Which other parks have you worked? Which park was your favorite and why?

I have been at Florissant Fossil Beds for 10 years. Again, a tough one to nail down…so here is another list for you.  Wind Cave because it was my first park as a seasonal and I got married there! The Everglades because it was so ALIVE, Canyonlands because of the magic landscape, and Florissant because of the fun and creative things we are doing.


How long have you been a musician? Which instruments do you play and how did you get started playing?

My mom would tell you that I began my musical career singing in the shower when I was little. I started playing guitar when I was in college but not seriously. I began writing children’s music in 2002 with my guitar teacher and friend and we made a science album called, “In Your Backyard.” The National Park music started in 2009.  I still continue to take guitar and vocal lessons. I’m still learning. I feel like I’m barely a musician. I mostly play guitar, but I’m learning blues harmonica.


Ranger Jeff Wolin entertains park visitors.

Ranger Jeff Wolin entertains park visitors.

How did you go about initiating the Songs for Junior Rangers CD? Did it start with one song?

Yes, in fact, Songs for Junior Rangers started with just one song.  I wrote Explore, Learn, and Protect for my son who was working on his Junior Ranger book one day in our living room.  The Washington Office supported the recording of the song and it was put on WebRangers. Then we decided to have a Junior Ranger Concert on the Mall and I wrote 6 more songs to have a set.  The floodgates opened and songs kept coming. At some point, I proposed the album idea to Julia Washburn (Associate Director of Interpretation and Education, NPS) and she liked the idea. She helped connect me to Eastern National and the National Park Foundation. At about the same time, I met Ranger Matt Hampsey from New Orleans Jazz. He said to me, “We can produce your album, that’s what we do at JAZZ!!!”  The partnership formed and it was awesome!


What was it like to collaborate with other rangers and musicians?

It is probably one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life. It was also a great honor to be amongst such great musicians. I really have to thank Ranger Matt Hampsey again and again because he produced the album and helped take the songs I wrote to amazing levels.  All of the rangers at New Orleans Jazz are amazing. There were so many guests and contributors, there is hardly enough time to thank them all. I’m a real extrovert and people person so I loved making millions of phone calls and making connections all over the country.


How does it feel to hear Grammy Award winning artists performing your songs? Again, it was a great honor to have amazing guest musicians on the album. Trout Fishing in America is a four- time Grammy nominated children’s group, Aaron Nigel Smith is an award winning musician and PBS personality, Committed won NBC’s Sing – Off and an NAACP nomination, and Johnette Downing is another award winning children’s musician.  As far as Grammy winners, I believe that a couple of our engineers on the album had been on Grammy Award winning albums. Everyone involved in the production of this album is hoping that we win the Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2013.


Which song on the CD is your favorite and why?

Yet another tough question to answer. It really changes on what mood I’m in I guess. If I absolutely had to pick one…it would probably be Turtle Up Turtle Down. I’ve been a lifelong Parrothead (Jimmy Buffett fan) and that was my attempt at a Jimmy Buffett style song….for kids.


How do you think the Songs for Junior Rangers CD encourages kids to appreciate national parks and lead a healthy lifestyle?

Music is powerful. It has the ability to connect us intellectual and emotionally to concepts.  And it does so on many levels.  Songs can lift us up, inspire us to run and workout, and or make us think and reflect.  I’m hoping that families will listen to the songs, enjoy them, dance to them, wonder about them, and then decide to go visit a park and get outside.


How do kids react when you perform for them?

I try to keep my performances as interactive as possible and get kids and families moving. So, I guess I would answer that question by saying that kids react to the performances by: doing the limbo, acting like a bison, singing, laughing, pretending they are in a cave, dancing in a parade, etc.


Ranger Jeff Wolin, NPS Director Jon Jarvis and former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar get kids moving to the sounds of Songs for Junior Rangers.

Ranger Jeff Wolin, NPS Director Jon Jarvis and former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar get kids moving to the sounds of Songs for Junior Rangers.

Do you have any notable stories about any of the songs, the creation of the CD or performing the songs that you would like to share?

It has been three years of unbridled creativity and joy.  A part of my heart and soul are in that album somewhere.  During the process, I met some amazingly inspiring people. I fell in love with New Orleans. I believe I have become a better musician and songwriter.


The CD has won several prestigious awards, including the NPS’s Freeman Tilden Award and most recently, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award®. How does that make you feel?

I feel honored and grateful!


Anything else you would like to share?

Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy – that’s what my grandmother used to say.


For more information about the Songs for Junior Rangers CD, please contact Ranger Jeff Wolin at (719) 748‐3253. To purchase the Songs for Junior Rangers CD, click here or call 877-NAT-PARK. To download a digital copy of the CD, click here for Amazon, or here for iTunes. For wholesale opportunities, click here.

Teachers Become the Students at National Parks

When one thinks of national parks, visions of natural scenery at places such as Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful at Yellowstone, and El Capitan at Yosemite come to mind. Perhaps the furthest thing from a person’s mind is a vision of a classroom; but the fact is that national parks and historic sites are a perfect environment for visitors of all ages to learn.

The national parks offer many educational interpretive programs, ranger–led tours, and exhibits pertaining to the primary themes of the park. There are also specialized programs available for children, including the Junior Ranger Program, in which kids complete a workbook filled with educational games, puzzles and activities. Upon completion, they receive a ‘Junior Ranger Badge’ and are dubbed an honorary park ranger. Programs like this engage kids and motivate them to learn more about the site they are visiting.

The Junior Ranger Program is just one way that students can learn about national parks. Eastern National photo.

The Junior Ranger Program is just one way that students can learn about national parks. Eastern National photo.

But how do we engage kids to learn about the national parks inside the classroom?

Curriculum requirements vary from state to state, but most children are taught about the national parks in fifth and sixth grades. The National Park Service (NPS) has free curriculum resources available for teachers on its website, and these valuable tools can easily be downloaded and implemented to enhance teachers’ lesson plans. Field trip planning resources are available for teachers planning a class visit to a park.

At the National Education Association trade show, we asked an elementary school teacher from central Wisconsin how she teaches her students about the parks. She responded that she asks her kids to pick a park, and write a report about it.

“Would you be inclined to take the kids on a field trip to a park?” we asked.

“I would love that,” she replied. “It’s just that there are no national parks located near us that we could visit.”

Other challenges that teachers face with visiting national parks for class field trips involve economics. According to an elementary school teacher from Arkansas, field trips are a thing of the past in her school district.

“The district just does not have the resources to cover liability insurance or transportation, nor do we have enough staff available to accompany the students,” she said.

Travelling Trunk and Guest Speaker Programs

This traveling trunk includes eight "explorations" that combine science with art and music. NPS Photo

This traveling trunk includes eight “explorations” that combine science with art and music. NPS Photo

Although some students might not have the opportunity to visit a park via a field trip, the NPS can “bring the park to the classroom,” by way of several programs.  One of these is through a virtual field trip, where students can learn about parks through an internet-based program and through audio and video conferencing technology. The NPS will also loan materials to schools, such as videos and other multimedia, depending on geographical areas and availability.

The “Travelling Trunk” and “Guest Speaker” programs bring a park ranger and assorted learning materials to a school for a more hands-on experience. These programs are ideal for schools that do not permit field trips, and they literally bring the park into the classroom. They also gives students the opportunity to interact with a park ranger, just as they would if they were visiting a park.

 Professional Development Programs

According to the NPS website, more than 70 parks offer professional development programs for teachers, which range from simple workshops (accredited and eligible for college credits), to institutes and field schools, which can last as long as 30 days. Many of these field schools are a cooperative effort between nonprofit groups, universities, and the NPS, and have programs available not just for teachers, but also for senior citizens and kids.

The Tsongas Industrial History Center, in cooperation with the University of Massachusetts and Lowell National Historical Park, offers teachers and schools a resource for historical content, interdisciplinary teaching approaches for history, science, language arts, mathematics, recertification points, and for curriculum planning. All workshops are participatory and provide teachers with useful teaching materials and activities.

The Independence Park Institute (IPI), the educational branch of Independence National Historical Park, is a partnership between the NPS, Eastern National and the William Penn Foundation.

“The Professional Development Programs of the Independence Park Institute are designed to give educators content knowledge and to help them apply that knowledge in the classroom.  We address different learning styles, teaching across the curriculum, and hands-on active learning using the resources of Independence NHP.  We stress the use of primary sources, objects, and place-based education,” according to Jeffrey Collins, Education Program Manager at the IPI.

A wide range of professional development programs are available for teachers at the IPI, which help teachers to plan field trips and develop curriculum. For example, a special workshop is being offered to teachers this July in partnership with Valley Forge National Historical Park, which will explore how the economic, social and political foundations of American history can spark the approach to teaching social studies.

Teachers participate in a SERC workshop at Acadia National Park

Teachers participate in a SERC workshop at Acadia National Park

At Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) provides Advanced Placement summer institutes in biology, environmental science, statistics, chemistry, world history, and art. The park provides a unique setting for intense work with other teachers and institute instructors, and there are accommodations for participating teachers on the SERC campus at Schoodic Point, surrounded by the pristine landscape of Acadia.

Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program

Another tremendous opportunity for teachers to enrich their national parks curriculum is through the NPS’s “Teacher-Ranger-Teacher” program, where teachers become park rangers for the summer and interact with park visitors. This program has proven to be enormously successful for teachers and parks alike, where the experience of working at a park enhances a teacher’s knowledge, and the park benefits from the experience of a teacher.

Saratoga National Historical Park participated in the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program last summer, and brought in Joe Crocetta, an eighth grade social studies teacher from the Catskill Central School District, an underprivileged school district in Greene County, New York. His contributions have had lasting results on the park.

“Joe assisted Saratoga NHP’s interpretive division with testing a daylong immersion program, where middle school students spend 24 hours experiencing life in the 18th century, as soldiers of the Continental Army. He also assisted interpreters in developing pre-visit and post-visit activities for future student visitors,” commented Bill Valosin, park ranger at Saratoga NHP. “Joe will bring the park to his students during National Park Week, where he will wear his NPS uniform in class, and encourage his students to learn more about the many opportunities in national parks for learning, recreation, and even careers.”

Joe Crocetta’s experiences working at Saratoga NHP have had an equally lasting impact on him.  “The Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program has provided me with a wealth of information to share with my students,” he said. In May of 2012, his class had the opportunity to participate in the new immersion program. “The rangers’ commitment to the program has made it a great success and an experience that students will never forget.”

Learn more about professional development and educational opportunities at: http://www.nps.gov/learn/

Evolution of a Glasshouse: From Colonial Glassmaking to Decorative Arts

Visiting historic Jamestown, part of Colonial National Historical Park, is truly a unique experience. Park visitors take a step back in time and see firsthand what life was like for the colonials, the challenges they faced and the will that took for them to survive. The Jamestown Glasshouse plays a major role in the interpretation of the site, providing visitors with an insight into the talent and skill essential for glassblowing.

Glassmaking in America dates back to 1608, when the first artisans employed by the Virginia Company of London arrived in the new world. Raw materials were plentiful in America, and English investors hoped that industrialization of the new world would be highly profitable. German and Polish artisans were instructed to produce glass, pitch, tar, and soap ash for export back to England.

Little is known about the success of this first attempt at glassmaking in America. A letter from William Starchey, secretary for the Virginia Company of London written in 1610 from Jamestown, stated that the glasshouse was “a goodly house … with all offices and furnaces thereto belonging.” A second attempt at glass manufacturing was made in 1622, when Italian artisans were sent to America with the same mission. According to all historical accounts, this second attempt was unsuccessful.


In 1948, archaeologists excavating ruins in Jamestown discovered the ruins of colonial glassmaking furnaces. In connection with the 350th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, the Jamestown Glass Foundation, headed by Carl Gustkey, President of Imperial Glass Company of Newark, Ohio, was compelled to demonstrate 17th century glassmaking techniques to visitors. Extensive research was compiled through a grant from Eastern National, Colonial NHP’s cooperating association, and by 1957 the colonial furnaces were reconstructed and opened to visitors.

The Jamestown Foundation operated the glass furnace at Jamestown for two years, but could not make the operation profitable. As much as park visitors were fascinated by the colonial glassmaking process, and the glassmaking process was an excellent interpretive demonstration, the Jamestown Foundation decided to close down the operation.

National Park Service Director Conrad L. Wirth was eager to keep the Jamestown Glasshouse operating, and prevailed upon Eastern National to consider taking over the operation on a trial basis. The Board of Directors of Eastern National were concerned about the prospect, but eventually agreed to invest capital into the operation in an attempt to make it sustainable.

With the resourcefulness of Colonial NHP’s Superintendent Stanley Abbott, operating costs were cut significantly and the glassmaking operations were streamlined. By 1961, the Glasshouse reported its first profit, and the colonial glassmaking demonstrations at Jamestown continue to be a major attraction for visitors of the park.

In September of 2003, the Jamestown Glasshouse was again in peril. As Hurricane Isabel raged up the coast of North Carolina and slammed into Virginia, the Jamestown Glasshouse was destroyed by storm surge and high winds. A temporary sales site was set up in the parking lot and glassblowing was halted for nine months. The Jamestown Glasshouse was rebuilt by Eastern National and finally reopened to visitors in June of 2004.


Today, the local artisans at Jamestown Glasshouse handcraft reproductions of colonial and contemporary glassware which are available for sale at the site or on eParks.com. The artisans also produce a number of limited edition art glass pieces, hand blown and crafted, such as the limited edition 2012 John Greene Vessel. This stunning piece is an adaptation based on a late 17th century design by Allesio Morelli, found in the drawings of John Greene of the London Glass Seller’s Company.


The contemporary glass series produced by the Jamestown Glasshouse showcase the vision and talent of these skilled artisans. The Seashore Glass series, which was first produced in 2009, became very popular and featured exquisite pieces such as the Octopus Bowl and Conch Shell (pictured below).


Every year, new glass pieces are added to the Contemporary Glass selections, including the Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase, which resembles the local plant of the same name. The Crackled Cobalt Bowl and the Cobalt Bulb Vase are also new for 2012. Crackled glass is achieved by dipping the hot glass into water after the main body has been blown. The glass is so hot it will only crack the outside layer of the glass. The glassblower will then reheat the glass to seal all of the cracks.


If you would like to learn more about the Jamestown Glasshouse, you can view this short YouTube video in which Eric Schneider, master glassblower, demonstrates his skill and gives a brief overview of the Glasshouse.

Visit the Jamestown Glasshouse’s website or the National Park Service’s website for Colonial National Historical Park for visitor information, or contact the Glasshouse directly at (757) 229-2437.

Founder’s Day: Honoring The Legacy Of Those Who Built The National Park Service

The National Park Service was born on August 25, 1916, after a bill authorizing its creation was approved by Congress and the Senate, and signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The commemoration of this historic date is widely known as Founder’s Day. Entrance fees to the parks are waived on August 25th, and many parks will celebrate the anniversary with events and special programs.

Sure, the National Park Service (NPS) could just call August 25th its birthday, but the term “Founder’s Day” seems more fitting since the NPS was the brainchild of a great many people who contributed to its inception. From the vision of early conservationists and naturalists such as John Muir and Gifford Pinchot and the formation of the service and its early years with Stephen Mather, Horace Albright and Arno Cammerer, to the massive strengthening of park infrastructures through the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the birth and growth of the NPS can be compared to the ancient trees of Sequoia and Redwood national parks. The national park idea was the sapling which took hold with deep and complex roots which grew tall and strong through the years.

The NPS has evolved tremendously since the early days of the service, when many parks didn’t even have access roads or any functioning visitor use facilities. But who were the so-called founders? Many people are familiar with the names of the early directors of the service, but there were many others who helped the service evolve into what it is today, and are not as widely known. Here are some of their stories:

Harry Yount

Harry Yount in 1873. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior

Harry Yount in 1873. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior

“Rocky Mountain” Harry Yount was born to Quaker immigrants in 1839. His family eventually settled in Washington County, Missouri, and Yount enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 after the outbreak of the Civil War. Wounded in a skirmish before the Battle of Pea Ridge, Yount was captured by the Confederates and was held as a Prisoner of War at Fort Smith, Arkansas. After his release, he reenlisted and was involved in 11 combat engagements during his military service. He was discharged in 1865, having earned the rank of Sergeant.

After the war, Yount traveled West and worked for the Army, transporting supplies between forts along the Bozeman Trail. Having gained a reputation as an experienced hunter, Yount was hired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1872 to collect specimens of animals for taxidermy display, many of which were exhibited during the Centennial Exposition of 1876. In 1880, he was employed as a seasonal guide for early mapping expeditions of the Rocky Mountains by the Department of the Interior, and was eventually appointed as the first Gamekeeper of Yellowstone National Park. One of his first reports stated that protection of the park could not be accomplished by just one man, and urged the formation of a ranger force, therefore being heralded as the first national park ranger and for setting the standard for protection of wildlife in national parks.

Dr. J. Horace McFarland

Dr. Horace J. McFarland. Photo via Capital Preservation Committee, State of Pennsylvania

Dr. Horace J. McFarland. Photo via Capital Preservation Committee, State of Pennsylvania

Horace J. McFarland was born in 1859, in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, the son of Civil War Colonel George McFarland. At age 12 and after only four years of formal education, McFarland went to work in his father’s printing shop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His father later opened Riverside Nurseries alongside the Susquehanna River, which inspired in his son a love of plants and outdoor beauty. McFarland opened his own printing company at age 19, and soon became the country’s premiere publisher of horticultural catalogs through his groundbreaking work with color photographs. He went on to pen dozens of gardening books, several of which are still renowned in horticultural circles. In 1891, McFarland became dedicated to improving the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Working with architect Warren Manning, McFarland developed a plan to build parks, new sewage systems, and filtered water to the city, bringing about dramatic improvements to Pennsylvania’s state capital.

In 1904, McFarland was elected president of the American Civic Association, an organization dedicated to improving the natural landscape of cities nationwide, a position he would hold for 20 years. He used his influence with the Roosevelt administration to protect Niagara Falls from hydroelectric plants, and became a driving force behind the creation of the NPS with other noted conservationists such as Stephen Mather, Horace Albright, Robert Marshall, Robert Sterling Yard, California Congressmen John Raker and William Kent, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Richard Watrous. They planned the formation of the NPS and strategized on how to protect the parks. McFarland made it his life’s work to educate the public and bring about civic improvements in cities across the country.

Lt. Col. Charles Young

Lt. Col. Charles Young, Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Lt. Col. Charles Young, Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The son of former slaves, Charles Young was born in Mayslick, Kentucky, in 1864. His father served as a Private in the Fifth Regiment of the Colored Artillery during the Civil War, and eventually moved the family to Ripley, Ohio. Young attended a white high school and graduated at the age of 16, being the first African American to graduate from the school with honors. After his graduation, Young taught at the black high school in Ripley, where he earned an opportunity to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point. Young was the third African American to graduate from West Point, was promoted to First Lieutenant and assigned to the 25th Infantry and 9th Cavalry Regiments, where he would serve for 28 years.

In 1903, Young was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia National Park, thus becoming the first African American superintendent. Although Sequoia had been authorized 13 years before, the park was still highly undeveloped and difficult to visit. The Army had been charged with building an access road to the Giant Forest, home of the world’s largest trees, but in three summers, only five miles of road had been built. When Young and his troops arrived, they set to work and completed more in one summer than had previously been completed in three years. The roads that Young and his troops built, having since been improved, are still in use today and millions of visitors have benefitted from the hard work and dedication of Young and his troops. Young’s home in Wilburforce, Ohio was designated Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument by President Obama in March 2013.

Franklin K. Lane

3b21647rBorn in 1864 on Prince Edward Island, Canada, Franklin Lane moved with his family to California in the 1870s. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, and went on to become a lawyer. After working as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lane was elected City Attorney for the city of San Francisco.  After serving in this position for five years, Lane made several unsuccessful attempts at various public offices such as Governor and Mayor of San Francisco. In 1905, Lane was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the Interstate Commerce Commission, and became chair in 1913. Two months later, he was appointed as the Secretary of the Interior by President Woodrow Wilson.

Although conservationists such as John Muir were opposed to many of his ideas, Lane advocated for the damming of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, which currently serves 2.4 million Californians in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Alameda counties, as well as some communities in the San Joaquin Valley. It also generates electricity for the city of San Francisco. Lane was responsible for enlisting Stephen Mather to be the service’s first director, along with advocating for the construction of the Alaska Railroad.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

Frederic Law Olmsted, Jr. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Frederic Law Olmsted, Jr. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Born in 1870, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  was the son of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., known as the father of American landscape architecture. He joined his father’s firm in 1891, and his first contributions were to two notable projects: the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the world famous Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. After his graduation from Harvard University and his father’s retirement, Olmsted and his brother John took over management of the firm, and spent the next several decades working on thousands of landscape projects nationwide, including Central Park, the National Mall, the grounds of the White House and Cornell University. In 1899 he became a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and served two terms as its president. The following year he was appointed instructor in landscape architecture at Harvard, where he helped create the country’s first university course in the profession.

In 1901, Olmsted was appointed to the MacMillan Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt, charged with updating and implementing Pierre L’Enfant’s century-old plans for Washington, DC. By 1910, Olmsted was approached by the American Civic Association for advice on the formation of the NPS, and was responsible for key language in the legislation. For the next thirty years, he advised the NPS on issues of management and the conservation of water and natural resources. His work at Acadia, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks, along with countless others has left an indelible mark on the NPS and on the system as a whole. Olmsted was also responsible for a guide to the selection and acquisition of land for the California park system which became a model for other states in the future. Olmsted spent the remainder of his years working to save the historic Redwoods on the California coast, and Olmsted Grove was dedicated to him in 1953 at Redwood National Park for all he accomplished to protect America’s national parks.

George Melendez Wright

George Melendez Wright at Yosemite National Park in 1929. Photo courtesy of NPS Historic Photo Collection

George Melendez Wright at Yosemite National Park in 1929. Photo courtesy of NPS Historic Photo Collection

George Melendez Wright was born in 1904 to a wealthy San Francisco family, his father a sea captain and his mother a member of a prominent El Salvadorian family. Both his parents died when he was very young, and Wright was sent to live with his aunt, Cordelia Ward Wright, who later adopted him. Wright spent his youth hiking and birding in the Bay area, and showed a keen interest in natural history. He spent two summers as an instructor at a camp for Boy Scouts during his teenage years, and was president of the Audubon Club at his high school before attending the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated in 1925 with a degree in forestry and began working as a field assistant to one of his professors.

Wright began his career with the NPS in 1927 as Assistant Park Naturalist at Yosemite National Park. He spent two years taking meticulous notes from various field trips, and assisted with efforts to create a museum of the Yosemite Valley.

Throughout his time at Yosemite, Wright became increasingly concerned about the wildlife within the park. Poaching, uncontrolled populations of elk and deer, along with the tameness of natural predators such as black bears caused Wright to conceive a plan to deal with his concerns. He proposed that there be a wildlife survey office and wildlife biology plan for the NPS. The fledgling NPS could not justify such an expenditure at that time, and since Wright was independently wealthy, he assumed all costs for the undertaking, including staff salaries and expenses. He continued to fund wildlife conservation efforts for the NPS until the program’s value could be proven. Wright’s findings were published in 1932 and 1933 in the series Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, and established the basis for wildlife conservation in American national parks. Wright was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1936 after concluding a survey at the newly authorized Big Bend National Park. He was only 31 years old when he died, but his contributions to wildlife conservation in national parks continue to resonate today.

These men and many others contributed to the formation of the NPS, and have helped the service grow into what it is today. But their contributions go far beyond the formation of the NPS. If not for the work of Wright, Olmsted, McFarland, Young, Lane and Yount, our America would be a very different place. For this we must be grateful and make the most of the amazing places these men worked so hard to preserve, protect and build.

Featured Image: NPS Director Stephen Mather at Glacier National Park.