WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke celebrated the 101st birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) last Friday with employees, volunteers and youth corps members while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Zinke’s trip also focused on ways to make the National Park experience even better for today’s visitors and future generations by cutting excessive bureaucracy, increasing public-private partnerships and clearing the maintenance backlog.
At Great Smoky Mountains, Zinke hiked with volunteers and helped youth corps members repair Rainbow Falls Trail. Highlights from Blue Ridge Parkway included visiting with staff at the Mt. Pisgah campgrounds and taking in views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 101 years of our unparalleled National Parks than with amazing employees, volunteers and young nature enthusiasts experiencing the beauty of the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains,” Zinke said.
To celebrate the birthday, free admission is being offered at the more than 400 national parks across the country.
“As we recognize another year of these amazing places, we ask every person to join in the celebration—whether it’s a walk through the National Mall or a hike on the Highline Loop at Glacier where I grew up,” Zinke said. “In my time as secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the men and women working every day to protect these places. Without them, we wouldn’t be celebrating today.”
He added, “It’s my commitment to continue to focus on infrastructure and maintenance to ensure that during the next 101 years, future generations can experience the same wonder and inspiration that past generations have.”
National Parks added $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy last year, while supporting over 300,000 jobs. Many of these jobs – at restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops – are in local communities around the park, strengthening the American retail, transportation, hospitality and outdoor recreation industries.
“National Parks are a driving force of the American economy,” Zinke said. “They are also impactful in ways that can’t be measured in figures. On the National Park Service’s 101st birthday, it’s important to rediscover the true meaning of the National Park experience. That experience isn’t one of long lines and traffic jams; it’s one of breathtaking sights and stories unique to the national treasures that are our parks. To that end, we’re working tirelessly at Interior to keep the promise of this experience for the American people.”
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior