National Trails Day will be marked Saturday, a day to honor all the volunteer efforts around the country that have gone into building and maintaining hiking trails across our public lands.
It's going to be low-key in some places, with nature hikes, exhibits and talks, and big news elsewhere, such as in San Francisco, where there will be a news conference tomorrow to unveil a multi-million-dollar effort to repair historic trails in Yosemite National Park.
I think National Trails Day is also a good time to reflect on the state of our national park system and where it's heading. After all, as the accompanying ad points out, we "can't make new ones."
The ads -- there's also one for Sequoia and one for Arches national parks -- were produced for the National Parks Conservation Association by the Chicago-based PR firm of Young and Rubicam, which graciously donated its creativeness. Mock-ups of theoretical blueprints for rebuilding Yosemite Falls, a massive sequoia tree, and Delicate Arch, the ads are a decided departure from the more typical warm and fuzzy appearance of most national park ad campaigns.
They're definitely pretty witty. The sequoia tree ad not only shows the engineering that might go into building a massive tree, but also details a mechanical squirrel. The Yosemite Falls blueprint includes a recirculating water system, while the Delicate Arch diagram depicts chickenwire used to cover the exterior of a replacement arch.
The point of the campaign, says NPCA spokeswoman Andrea Keller Helsel, is that all is not well with our national park system.
"Instead of depicting cute and cuddly wildlife, we are asking the reader to imagine the absurdity of having to recreate some of our national park icons," she says. "This new public service campaign is out of the box, a real creative departure for NPCA from our previous print PSAs. It's an exciting new way to talk about the critical threats facing our national parks, and how each of us can help."
It is a bold approach, one that hopefully will catch on around the country and give folks pause when they think of their next national park vacation. After all, with ongoing budget woes forcing individual parks to pick between interpretive programs, road maintenance and employees, and efforts by some in Washington to turn the parks into high-tech playgrounds, all is definitely not well with the national park system.
If you're having a hard time making out some of the details of the ads, surf over here to see slightly larger versions.
NPCA has a limited number of posters of each ad, and while the organization is not selling them, if you contact the group -- 202-223-6722 -- they'll send you one. And if they run out by the time you contact them, well, think of joining NPCA to help fight for our parks via that contribution.