Every year during the month of April, a Presidential Proclamation sets aside one week for Americans to shine a spotlight on our national parks, acknowledge the men and women entrusted with their care, and reaffirm the importance of investing in the stewardship of these national treasures for future generations.
This year presents a special challenge. Although most national park facilities have been closed and their events canceled because of the current pandemic, the National Park Service (NPS) and its official charitable partner, the National Park Foundation, have come up with several ways that you can enjoy the national parks digitally this season from the safety and comfort of your own home.
First off, each individual day of National Park Week will highlight a specific theme:
- Saturday, April 18: Junior Ranger Day encourages interested youth to complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although people of all ages can participate.
- Sunday, April 19: Volunteer Day recognizes the contributions of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who contribute million of hours of volunteer service in the NPS Volunteers-in-Parks Program.
- Monday, April 20: Military Monday salutes the American military, veterans, and their families for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our freedom and celebrates the historical ties between the military and the national parks.
- Tuesday, April 21: Transportation Tuesday highlights the intimate connection between the national parks and transportation in America, from the transcontinental railroad to the expanded access to parks necessitated by the advent of the automobile. This year some of us may have to ditch the cars and settle for a journey of the mind.
- Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day is a world-wide celebration encouraging environmental education and responsibility, and will be observing its 50th anniversary this year.
- Thursday, April 23: Throwback Thursday provides both an opportunity to explore the history preserved in national parks and an invitation to share your own memories of visiting our national parks with family and friends.
- Friday, April 24: Friendship Friday acknowledges and celebrates the many individuals, groups, organizations, and communities that have partnered with the national parks and programs.
- Saturday, April 25: Park ℞ Day promotes the healing power of the outdoors by encouraging everyone to safely enjoy nature in our homes, backyards, neighborhoods, and nearby parks and trails. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and thank our Healthcare Heroes serving on the front lines.
- Sunday, April 26: BARK Ranger Day provides an opportunity for park visitors to learn how to have a positive experience with their pets. BARK stands for Bag your pet’s waste; Always leash your pet; Respect wildlife; and Know where you can go.
In addition to these scheduled events, there are several more safe activities you can participate in at home. Here are a few:
- Take a virtual tour of a national park. Many national park sites offer online tours and experiences that you can access anytime, anywhere.
- Tune into PARKTRACKS, an innovative audio experience that can help counter the hustle and bustle of city life and promote tranquility and mindfulness with the relaxing sounds of America’s national parks, captured by the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.
- Make a gift to support the national parks. If you donate between now and April 30, Nature Valley will match every donation up to $250,000.
- Finally, see how many experiences you can check off of this checklist of 20 Virtual Ideas for 2020. There are enough activities here to keep anyone busy for the whole week and then some!
What plans do you have for celebrating National Park Week? Be sure to share your experiences on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other Social Media. Above all, stay safe and recreate responsibly.
Article by Bobby Griffith.