On a blisteringly hot day in Washington, DC one hundred years ago, a most special government agency was born. One that would infinitely change my life and the lives of so many people around America. On 9 p.m., on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act of 1916, the legislation creating the National Park Service. Horace Albright, the first Assistant Director telegraphed Director Stephen Mather with the news (from Creating the National Park Service):
“Park Service bill signed nine o’clock last night. Have pen President used in signing for you.”
The Organic Act spelled out the mission for this new agency:
“….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.”
For a woman who unabashedly loves nature, mountains, and wildlife, the National Park Service would seem to be the ideal fit for this mountain lover. And for almost seventeen years it was.
What kept me going through seventeen years and seven different parks all over the country, was complete dedication to that mission. And it’s the thing that pretty much every National Park Service employee I ever worked with was committed to, no matter the circumstances.
A part of me feels wistful and a bit sad today. I always thought I’d be wearing my gray and green uniform and my Smoky hat in some national park on this day. The reasons I “retired” from the National Park Service are varied and too complex for a single blog post.
But even though I no longer work as for the Park Service, I’m still incredibly proud of the agency and what it stands for. The awe, wonder, emotions that the national parks provide to people from all over the world and our country. It truly was one of America’s Best Ideas.
So here’s to you National Park Service. And here’s to Stephen Mather, Horace Albright and the thousands of other members of the gray and green who have furthered the mission of the National Park Service. May the next 100 years bring many more fond memories to lovers of the national parks.