Historic Gathering Shapes National Park Service’s Future

By Beacon Staff

The National Park Service outlined new directives last week to help protect and support national parks nationwide, which include increasing outreach to youth and other populations, using technology to attract more visitors and improve park experiences and nurturing a stronger relationship with local communities.

Inspired by the NPS’s recent “Call to Action” report that highlighted challenges and opportunities facing national parks, NPS leaders, advocates and supporters discussed ways to meet those demands and evolve the park system at America’s Summit on National Parks in Washington DC on Jan. 24-26.

The three-day summit drew more than 350 people, including members of Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and conservation, tourism and communication leaders.

According to a press release, the most notable goals coming out of the summit were ways to increase the national parks’ appeal and support. The NPS will also try to create an endowment for the future funding; encourage supporters of national parks to become more engaged with their members of Congress and other decision makers; and grow the base of support for national parks, particularly among the health, education and tourism communities.

NPS leaders came out of the summit with a working document that describes participants’ shared “Statement of Principles” and “Action Items” to ensure progress, the release said.

The objective of the summit was reiterated in a joint statement released by Tom Kiernan, president of National Parks Conservation Association; Neil Mulholland, president of National Park Foundation; and Derrick Crandall, counselor of National Park Hospitality Association.

“Our parks need to evolve with us. The passionate leaders and advocates who attended this Summit are committed to a united vision for the national parks to thrive in the next century,” the statement read. “We understand that appropriate funding, diverse outreach, natural resource protection and conservation, updated facilities, and adequate staff are necessary to make sure our national parks remain attractive, healthy places for people to visit and enjoy.”

The NPS will celebrate its centennial in 2016.