January 6, 2016

Thoughts on the First Day of Our Centennial

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NPS Equestrian Unit in the Rose Parade

Over the last few days in Pasadena, California, as we launched into our centennial year, I was struck by how the events perfectly defined our history, our long traditions, and our future.

On January 1st, I had the privilege to ride alongside several dozen National Park Service employees in the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade. We had rangers, park police officers, superintendents, packers, Buffalo Soldiers, junior rangers, volunteers, partners, and Burl, the NPS’s only stagecoach driver. We rode proudly along the five-mile parade route displaying our century of tradition of sharp uniforms, horses, and wagons. The beautiful floats spoke of our traditions and our invitation to Find Your Park (or Adventure) with floral depictions of charismatic megafauna, waterfalls, RVs and patriotic symbols like Mt. Rushmore.

I was also impressed by the extraordinary diversity of the 600,000 spectators lining the street – Asian, Hispanic, and African American families cheering us on, waving and clapping all along the parade route. Just a few miles away, rangers from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area were having fun with hundreds of kids at the Live on Green festival, engaging them in activities like carpet kayaking, crunchy leaf walking, magnetic spin fishing, scratch-and-sniff plants, and hiking a trail to their future employment. It was active, engaging, and anything but traditional NPS and the kids and their families loved it.  At the “post parade”, thousands more, again highly diverse, milled around the floats and lined up to get their junior ranger stamps for a mass swearing-in by the SAMO rangers.

I came away from those few days very proud of our organization, for its long sense of tradition, but also for its willingness to embrace new and exciting ways to connect with the next generation.

Kayaking the LA River

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