National Park Foundation Celebrates 50 Years of Supporting the National Park System

The National Park Foundation is highlighting 50 years of achievements on behalf of national parks, while also looking forward to the next 50.

The National Park Foundation was established by Congress on December 18, 1967, to protect America’s natural, cultural, and historic sites, as well as connect Americans with those places and help build the next generation of park advocates. Raising money, running programs, and fostering partnerships are some of the chief ways NPF has fulfilled this mission over the last five decades, which it hopes to continue to do with even greater effectiveness.

“At 50, proud to report that we’re hitting our stride,” said NPF President Will Shafroth in a press release. “Extending beyond one park, the National Park Foundation raises money and establishes innovative partnerships to benefit National Park Service sites and programs coast to coast and on the islands too. The community of national park supporters is stronger than ever and growing bigger every single day.”

NPF has invested upward of $700 million in the country’s natural, cultural, and historic sites. Last year alone, NPF “provided more than $126 million in support to vital national park projects,” said Shafroth in a blog post for Huffington Post. “We conserved more than 89,000 acres of land, awarded 732 grants to 302 parks and public lands, restored and repaired 112 miles of trails, helped Yellowstone National Park strengthen relations with 26 affiliated Native American tribes, introduced 1,225 adults with disabilities to parks through Wilderness Inquiry canoeing activities, and made it possible for 614 young people to be hired at 42 national parks.”

Plus, in the last four years, NPF has raised $463 million, as part of a five-year $500 million campaign. “We will definitely hit the $500 million mark in this year we assume in the first half of the calendar year, so we’ll have that to celebrate—and the impact that those dollars are having directly on our national parks,” Shafroth said.

To highlight some of those achievements, NPF is using #WeAreParks on social media to create more awareness and broaden support for the foundation—and it’s asking its partners and advocates to use the hashtag, too, as they support national parks.

In its 50th year, NPF will chip away at the $12 billion backlog of national park maintenance needs, including the restoration of trails, such as Middle Emerald Trails at Zion National Park and infrastructure repairs at the Washington Monument. NPF is also partnering with organizations that represent individual parks to create more impact, whether that’s in raising dollars or growing volunteerism.

In addition, NPF is running programs like Opening OutDoors For Kids, which raises funds to send kids to national parks and campaigns like Find Your Park to engage millennials with national parks, especially the lesser-known ones.

“We want our descendants to look back on what we did today, just as we looked back at what happened 50 and 100 years ago, and say, ‘Thank God that the people at the National Park Foundation and their partners did these things that were fundamental to our ability to be surviving and successful today,’” Shafroth said.

A scene from Yosemite National Park. (Csondy/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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