Our National Parks are often called America's best idea. As the U.S. National Park system approaches its 100th anniversary in 2016, the past and future of our parks is a growing subject of discussion. How should parks adapt in this time of rapid economic, social, environmental, demographic and technological change? What challenges are likely? What does the future hold?
I believe our future lies in making parks relevant and of service to all Americans. Last week, from March 27th-28th, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Wallace Stegner Center's Annual Symposium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The topic this year was "National Parks: Past, Present and Future." The staff at the Center put on a marvelous event, with a great array of speakers. Many of the presenters spoke passionately about the parks. For me, though, the most moving presentations focused on the need for parks to reach out to all Americans in this time of rapid change, to ensure that every single person feels welcomed to this national treasure. High points included Park Service Director Jon Jarvis speaking about stewardship for a new century, author and advocate Audrey Peterman urging a focus on diversity and outreach to new audiences, and Destry Jarvis extolling the virtues of partnerships.
Here at the Institute at the Golden Gate, we believe in seeking out new and innovative ways to make our National Parks relevant and of value for all Americans, irrespective of race, age, ethnicity or background. Whether it's our health program focused on the role of parks in helping people with high health needs, or our work on parks as a hub of informal education and learning, we believe parks can play a range of different roles in people's lives. In the lead up to our National Park Centennial 2016 and beyond, we will continue to build partnerships and coalitions to support such efforts.