National park fans longing for the no-fee admissions of yesteryear will love what they see at the entrance gates on Saturday, September 27. It’s this year’s National Public Lands Day, and all parks will be waiving their entrance fees. You don’t have to volunteer to help with the restoration and cleanup efforts planned for that day, but it would be nice if you did.
National Public Lands Day is a heavily promoted, very successful annual event inaugurated 1994 by the National Environmental Education Foundation. Congress established the NEEF in 1990 to advance environmental knowledge and action, and to activate environmentally responsible behavior in the general public.
The primary way that NEEF accomplishes its mission is by leveraging public-private partnerships. The National Public Lands Day program is a good example of this. As the NEEF explains it, the threefold purpose of National Public Lands Day program is to:
• Educate Americans about critical environmental and natural resources issues and the need for shared stewardship of valued, irreplaceable lands;
• Build partnerships between the public sector and local communities based on mutual interests in the enhancement and restoration of America's public lands; and
• Improve public lands for outdoor recreation, with volunteers assisting land managers in hands-on work.
The program has blossomed from modest origins. When it was launched in 1990, just three federal agencies and 700 volunteers participated. Last year, however, eight federal agencies and many state and local agencies participated in the program, which drew 110,000 volunteers to help with work – mainly site restoration and cleanup projects – at 1,300 locations scattered throughout the country (including every state).
Many national parks are sponsoring volunteer restoration and cleanup projects on National Public Lands Day. At Iowa’s Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, volunteers are invited to help restore the park’s 81-acre natural tall grass prairie by cutting woody shrubs and picking prairie plant seeds. In South Carolina’s Congaree National Park, volunteers are needed to help pick up litter and remove non-native plants.
For more information about National Public Lands Day projects in the national parks, contact Public Affairs Specialist Kathy Kupper (phone 202-208-6843) in the Office of the Director. If you’re interested in helping at a local national park, check the park’s website for relevant information or give them a call. They’d love to hear from you.
To encourage visitation on National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at all national parks on September 27. You don’t have to be a volunteer to get this sweet deal.