National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary


  This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, but for many park lovers, a visit today is just as fresh as it was when they first visited.

  Granite Bay High School Biology teacher Scott Braly is an avid supporter of national parks and has visited several of them, including Yosemite and Redwood in California, Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in Arizona, and Yellowstone, which is mostly in Wyoming,

  Braly doesn’t want to stop there. Glacier National Park in Montana is on his bucket-list, as well as southwestern parks such as Bryce Canyon in Utah.

  “That southwest is beautiful -just incredibly striking landscapes,” Braly said.   

  The NPS centennial allows it to both celebrate and revitalize its purpose of preserving America’s spectacular nature and wildlife by sharing it with the public and increasing awareness.

  Junior Alina Poczobutt has visited a number of national parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.

 “I went to Yosemite when I was probably seven, and I go (back) every year with my family,” said Poczobutt, who enjoys hiking in Yosemite during summer visits and ice-skating during winter visits.

  Sophomore Spencer Richard also is a frequent visitor to Yosemite and has ventured into the park’s backcountry areas where many others haven’t.    

  “I’ve been to Yosemite a couple times now, and every time I’ve gone backpacking with my friends. We just hiked around, spent a couple days in there – it was a lot of fun,” Richard said.

  While national parks are a leisure or activity destination for most, there is a deeper meaning to them for GBHS librarian Julia Hedstrom, who is a seasoned national park-goer and has visited 10 national parks.  

  “I actually consider a national park my home, my real home,” Hedstrom said.   

  Growing up, Hedstrom said she  spent two weeks every year in  Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, swimming, biking and running into a lot of wildlife.  

  “So that’s my true home,” she said.

  The individual uniqueness of each national park brings memorable experiences along with them for their visitors.  

  Richard, the GBHS sophomore who has also been to Grand Canyon, favorably recalls his trip there.

  “You’d never really realize the actual size and how vast it is until you actually see it for yourself,” Richard said.  “One morning, we woke up early and saw the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, and I just realized how big it was – it was cool.”

  Braly, the GBHS biology teacher, recalls his time spent with his family at the Grand Canyon as also being remarkable, not only for the canyon’s beauty, but also because of bird sightings of California condors, a critically endangered species.

  “I look up and see these three condors flying over about 50 yards up, just huge and beautiful – it was pretty cool,” Braly said.

  Hedstrom has also experienced some quite memorable things during her time in the Grand Tetons.

  She was canoeing with her mom, and the river was too shallow, so they had to carry their supplies past the low point.  When they came back for their canoes, they saw something unexpected.

 “We noticed next to our canoe was a big black bear,” Hedstrom said.  “Someone else had left their lunch there, and he had discovered it.”

  “The bear started coming up the steps… (and) was about 13 feet away from us,” Hedstrom said.  “That (experience) was most memorable because my heart was pounding.”

  Spectacular views, amazing wildlife, and unforgettable experiences keep both American and foreign visitors alike coming back for more.

  With more and more people taking advantage of America’s  national parks, the role the NPS plays in protecting the country’s beauty has never been more important.

  “It is very special that our forefathers, our early leaders in this county, had the foresight to do that,” Braly said. “Preserving them for all time and preserving them for the people.

  “It’s an amazing legacy for the people, it belongs to the American public … and (national parks) should be preserved forever.” Braly is not alone.

  “I actually think we should have more national parks,” Richard said. “It’s one of the few areas in the United States where there’s limited construction – they prevent people from destroying wildlife.”

  To continue to raise more awareness for those who have yet to personally enjoy a national park, the NPS has started another new program, Find Your Park.  This campaign, with First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush serving as honorary co-chairs, highlights the  diversity offered through the park system, urging everyone to find a national park they personally connect with and to go out and explore.

  The centennial year of the National Park Service continues to try to inspire an ongoing appreciation for the national legacy of natural wonders in the United States.

  “I think (in) America… we have some of the most beautiful country in the world,” Hedstrom said. “There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars and having real experiences with nature.

  “Those kinds of experiences sustain your soul – they make you realize you’re part of nature and something bigger.”