By Tom VandenBerg, National Park Service, Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park, AK
March 24, 2016
2016 celebrates the centennial of the National Park Service. This year we look back at our history and forward to new opportunities and the next generation of park advocates. The Deepwater Exploration of Glacier Bay National Park expedition team aboard the Norseman II joins a long legacy of adventurers inspired by Glacier Bay. As a park established for science, this expedition perfectly represents the idea of connecting to our public lands for inspiration, knowledge, and discovery! The underwater world of Glacier Bay is just as magnificent as the sights seen above!
Creating a National Park Service was not easy. In the 19th century the idea of preserving special natural and cultural places in public ownership ran contrary to the prevailing idea of nature as a commodity. But as wilderness receded and remnants of prehistoric civilizations and revolutionary landmarks were lost, outstanding examples of our nation's heritage needed to be protected.
It began in 1864, when the Federal Government gave Yosemite Valley to the state of California to be “held for public use, resort, and recreation... for all time.” Eight years later, Congress created the world's first national park, Yellowstone, as “a public park or pleasure-ing ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” More large western parks followed. Though without funding, or even one employee, it was up to Army cavalry units to develop and protect these fledging parks.
In 1916, Congress created the National Park Service with the mission: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Since then the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their most special places. Today there are 409 sites covering more than 84 million acres in every state. Some parks commemorate notable people and achievements, and others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders. National Parks, “America's best idea,” tell America's story and connect us with our history, our environment, ourselves, and each other.
Join the celebration! This year there will be special events and activities throughout the country. While in Glacier Bay National Park, visitors will spend time with the park rangers to learn and become inspired by the park's limitless opportunities for reflection, awe, and wonder. For those of you not located in Alaska, explore the parks near your home and spread the word. You can also help connect future generations to parks by helping youth explore careers with the National Park Service, volunteering, advocating for the preservation of what you find special, and sharing your park stories with others at FindYourPark.com
For us here at Glacier Bay National Park, we have a series of exciting activities scheduled for the centennial celebration at our headquarters at Bartlett Cove including the “Grand Opening” of the Huna Tribal House in August.
A couple days ago, a few of us joined the mission team for a day at sea where we were able to get a better sense of the work being done during this project. During our trip we explored the submerged communities near Johns Hopkins Glacier. We also hosted several visitors today to talk to the scientists, learn more about the coral communities that exist in the park, and tour the Norseman II.