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91st Anniversary for National Park Service

A Birthday Cake for the National Parks

A Birthday Cake for the National Parks

Ninety one years ago today, Congress approved a bill which is now simply referred to as the Organic Act. This is the one which directs the National Park Service to manage parks "by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." On August 25th each year, those close to the parks recognize today as Founder's Day. In recent years, the day has become an opportunity to talk about the future of the parks. Last year we learned of the Centennial Initiative, this year, we've heard the Interior's new proposed programs as well as statements from the NPS Retirees, and from the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Raul Grijalva (AZ). He says,

As the NPS Centennial approaches, there is a consensus among policy makers and the American people that this milestone must be viewed as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to enhancing the National Park System and building a stronger, more diverse, better trained, and better equipped National Park Service. I am committed to working to help ensure that our National Parks and NPS employees can successfully meet the challenges of the next 100 years.


There are some special events happening around the parks today, on this 91st anniversary of the agency. In Washington D.C., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in President’s Park the celebration will take place at the White House Visitor Center. Visitors can win prizes by testing their knowledge of the NPS in a fun and engaging game show called “Are You Smarter than a Park Ranger?” Book readings, crafts, and games will be available for all family members.

At the brand new Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, the premiere of "Grand Teton National Park: Life on the Edge," a documentary film created by Discovery Communications through the National Park Foundation Proud Partner Program, will premiere. The 24-minute film offers an engaging portrait of the Teton landscape by juxtaposing historic images, such as classic photography by Ansel Adams, and new footage of contemporary recreational activities in the park. The documentary also portrays the park’s geological and biological resources and mountain rescue operations.

In San Diego, California, there will be an open house at the Cabrillo National Monument, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A highlight of the day will be living history and tours at the 19th-century Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This is one of two days each year that the lighthouse’s tower is open to the public. Put into operation on November 15, 1855, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse was one of the first eight lighthouses built on the West Coast. It played a critical role in the growth of maritime commerce along the coast and in development in the West.

And, for those of you living or touring through Iowa, stop in at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. There are a number of activities planned for the day, and admission to the site and the Presidential Library and Museum will be free.


91 is old. A 91-year-old person would possibly be afflicted with arthritis and be very inflexible. A 91-year-old person possibly would have lost a great deal of functionality and might even suffer from Alzheimer's, dementia, or other age-related diseases and would be close to death. A 91-year-old person would have an archaic education that could not have possibly prepared him or her for the 21st century.

No surprise that the NPS, too, has lost functionality and become inflexible with advanced age. The NPS was born in an era completely foreign to ours, its founding charter a product of a non-scientific time when snake oil was peddled on the streets. It's time to pull the plug on the life support system and look forward to renewal and rebirth.

Oh, and I find the idea of "Are You Smarter than a Park Ranger?" incredibly distasteful and doltish and a possible legal violation (Don't use the NPS arrowhead without our permission, or we'll send the FBI after you! But it's ok for us to steal trademarks). I suggest replacing it with "Are you as stupid as an NPS administrator?"

Reform the National Park Service!

Before everyone else dog piles on you Frank let me say that I wholeheartedly agree.

We could start with the WW I era uniforms which give off the look and feel of a tired and outdated organization. I remember when Roger Kennedy was the director back in the 1990's and he proposed making changes to the uniform to update and modernize it and was greeted with howls of protest from the geniuses in the WASO directorate. They said that the uniform was what defined the agency and it would be very unwise for an outsider, hailing from the halls of the Smithsonian, to monkey with a proud heritage derived from the military occupation of Yellowstone. So much for incremental change. I always thought the Australian national parks had much better looking and practical field uniforms and wrote Director Kennedy at the time supporting him in failed attempt to upgrade the green and gray. He didn't last long as director.

Another thing that is VERY old, after 91 years, is the constant drum beat of poverty and underfunding that reverberates through the organization, regardless of who is in charge in DC, that has become so dull and predictable that most Americans just tune it out. In my career I saw lots of solitaire playing computer screens being manipulated by GS-14's who never got outside long enough to rid them of their pasty white office tans, much less justify the expense of their positions. The waste and mismanagement in my park was extraordinary as was the meteoric rise of salaries and benefits for the least productive sectors of the agency. No one inside or outside the NPS really believes there isn't enough money to run the parks. People can see the shoddy infrastructure, canceled programs and shiny new police vehicles. They know the score.

Poverty has now become just an automatic mantra like a parrot that was taught one joke and then sold back to the pet store. He don't know no better. The public is tired of hearing the joke and has tuned the green and gray bird out. Maybe euthanasia should be openly discussed.

The parks need a new master(s) after almost a century of one-party rule. Ain't that waht true democracy is all about.

Hang in there Frank. The dialogue IS the thing.

It is quite exasperating to see the money grabbing private enterprizes running some of our national parks. They should not be run on a hotel hilton theme .
Some how the original intent has been lost to profiteering.

Excellent points, Beamis. The reluctance to change an outmoded and even dangerous uniform highlights the conservative, self-perpetuating nature of NPS bureaucracy. There is hope for major change if people continue to speak out and to think about alternatives.

Reform the National Park Service!

I nominate Frank and Beamis to head up the NPT centennial uniform committee. I'd like to suggest the NPS consider uniforms like these from NASCAR. They are built from a fire-retardant material (addresses safety), and there is plenty of room for the logos of Proud Partner organizations. I don't think directors order #21 has any objections to branding of the uniform. This may be a way for the NPS to take in a little more money, although says Beamis, they may not need it.
 mulsanne via flickr

I don't think this uniform would be appropriate in some of the hot weather parks like the Everglades or Death Valley but would be fine at units like Alcatraz and Isle Royale. It's important for the local climate be taken into consideration when dressing rangers for their field related duties.

Thanks for the endorsment Jeremy. Is there really a uniform committee? I wouldn't be surprised if there was a whole working group dedicated to it. Just wondering.

Don't know if there is an official committee, but we could start one! I've given our man a straw flat hat for the desert environment of Death Valley ... we have to keep SOME of the tradition alive, how else would we separate the NASCAR drivers from the NPS Rangers?
 my flickr mashup

Thanks for the laugh-out-loud photo!

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