A century after President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill creating the National Park Service, Glacier National Park is getting ready to celebrate “America’s best idea.” But if you’re looking for streamers, balloons and birthday cakes, you may have to look elsewhere.
Park officials say they are preparing for a more subtle celebration, marked by efforts to promote all the 1 million-acre preserve has to offer in the local community and on social media.
Centennial volunteer ambassador Andrew Lahr said the Park Service’s anniversary would be wrapped into several annual events, including the National Park Bioblitz in May, July and August, where citizens help scientists identify plant and animal species; the Glacier Ride, a charitable bike ride sponsored by the Glacier National Park Conservancy and Climate Ride from July 5 to 10; and the Backpacker’s Ball on Aug. 6, which raises money for projects sponsored by the conservancy.
The National Park Service and Glacier Park officials are also taking a more active role in some local events in the Flathead Valley. This winter, they participated in the Whitefish Winter Carnival and they’re already planning on having a presence at various Forth of July events and the Northwest Montana State Fair in August.
“I think it’s really good for us to let the public know that we’re here and that we’re all part of the same community,” Lahr said.
Meanwhile, the centennial has opened up funding for a handful of projects over the last year. More than $500,000 flowed into Glacier through the Park Service’s Centennial Challenge that funded more than 150 projects across the system with $25 million in congressional appropriations and more than $45 million in matching funds from partner organizations. Centennial Challenge projects in Glacier included improvements to the Highline and Swiftcurrent Lake trails, the restoration of the spiral staircase at the Many Glacier Hotel and improvements to the bathroom facilities at Avalanche.
Officials are also making a big push on social media to promote the park. While the park’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are always active, park officials have invited a “social influencer” with thousands of online followers for a brief residency in the park this summer. That person will share their experiences online.
“Social media is helping us spread the word about the National Park Service’s mission and it helps us promote the importance of protecting our public lands,” Lahr said. “Social media is especially useful in reaching out to new audiences and young people.”