America’s national parks are some of its most treasured resources and belong on just about any list of the most beautiful and photogenic places on the planet. The parks are visited by almost 300 million travelers from around the world each year, which sounds like a great deal of people, but the demographics of national park visitors may surprise you–white and aging individuals.
Current and former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush have joined forces to combat this issue by creating the “Find Your Park” program designed to introduce these amazing national parks to a younger and more diverse generation of Americans.
Without new people visiting and volunteering in these parks, they will slowly fade into extinction. This campaign will coincide with the centennial celebration for the National Park Service (NPS) which is coming up in 2016. There are over 400 parks and monuments in the NPS, but many Americans know nothing about them beyond their mere existence. This new initiative is being put in place with the hope of connecting Americans with their national parks and raising awareness that these places are more than just landscapes and beautiful photos, more than a campsite in the forest – they are parts of history – landmarks and monuments which illustrate some of the most important events in American history.
The NPS is facing a number of issues in addition to the aforementioned demographic problems. Namely, there’s a big money shortage in America’s national park system – to the tune of 11.5 billion dollars in deferred maintenance costs. These are all important projects that have been put off for more than a year like updating park infrastructure (roads, visitors centers, hiking trails etc.). That’s a lot of money – where will it come from? Again, it comes back to people. The Find Your Park program could breathe a new life into the park system.
As the centennial celebration draws near, the NPS has partnered with one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world – so get ready to see a number of ads and social media campaigns encouraging Americans of every age and ethnicity to get out and Find Your Park. Various celebrities are on board as well – you can read how they found their park on the NPS blog. As part of this initiative, all fourth graders and their families will have free access to national parks throughout the next school year