Happy 100th Birthday to our National Park Service


In: Texas Times Column   Posted 08/25/2016
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If you’ve had the chance to view the sun setting into a deep gorge at Big Bend National Park, or stargaze from the Permian Era fossil reef in West Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains, you understand the importance of preserving Texas’ wild spaces. 

And if you’ve watched turtle hatchlings crawl into the Gulf of Mexico along the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island on Padre Island National Seashore or spoken with a staged 19th century soldier about the outbreak of the Civil War at Fort Davis National Historic Site, you can appreciate why our state’s history and natural treasures are cause for celebration.

The National Park Service (NPS), which maintains these sites in Texas, has a celebration of its own this week as it observes its 100th birthday. The NPS was established on August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act into law, creating a new federal bureau within the Department of Interior to manage our national parks.  

At that time, the United States only had 35 national parks. One hundred years later, our national park system has grown to more than 400 national parks, monuments, and historic sites across all 50 states. 

Texas is home to 16 of these nationally recognized sites, and each year they attract more than five million visitors and plug more than $216 million into our state’s economy.

It’s no mystery why.  In Texas, we have a park for everybody.  You can reflect upon Texas’ hard-fought independence at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, or you can watch a movie under the stars at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch just like he would have hosted 50 years ago.

Active outdoorsmen can mountain bike along the rough terrain of the Harbor Bay Trail at Lake Meredith.  Paddlers can navigate their way along cypress-lined bayous at Big Thicket.  You can even scuba dive in the middle of the desert at the Amistad National Recreation Area in Del Rio.

Visitors to the Alibates Flint Quarries in the Panhandle can learn how to make ancient mammoth-hunting tools from 13,000 years ago.  And at Texas’ newest national park, Waco Mammoth Site, you’ll find the largest concentration of Columbian mammoth remains in North America.

The list goes on.  So to celebrate all the National Park Service has to offer on its Centennial Anniversary, I encourage you to visit one or many of the national parks we have right here in our backyard.  Many sites are holding centennial events this month, but on any day of the year, the views, the history, and the experience are worth the trip.