Outdoor Recreation Idea of the Day, February 10, 2011

What Works: National Park Service Centennial an Opportunity to Reenergize Park Partnerships

February 10, 2011 (Washington, DC) - The America's Great Outdoors report is due out Februrary 16th. Here is an important letter submitted to AGO last September about the role of the 2016 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service as a catalyst for more progress -- let's hope to see these sentiments reflected in the report next week!

September 10, 2010

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior

The Honorable Nancy Sutley, Chair
Council on Environmental Quality

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture

The Honorable Lisa Jackson, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency

Dear Secretaries Salazar and Vilsack, Chair Sutley and Administrator Jackson:

As millions of families, including the first family, visit national parks across the country, we are once again reminded that our national parks are a core part of our nation’s great outdoors. As you work to define the administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, we write to remind you of the centrality of our beloved national parks to America’s great outdoors and to encourage you to include a robust national park component in the initiative.

National Parks are our nation’s most beloved places. The parks are anchors that protect the nation’s treasured landscapes, and are integral to landscape-scale efforts merging protection, public access, and sustainable economies. There is an opportunity to leverage existing public enthusiasm for parks to do much more to connect youth, families, schools and communities to the great outdoors. The tremendous experience of the National Park Service can help Americans access healthy outdoor activities and the natural world, both close to home and across the country, and help nurture lifelong relationships with our Great Outdoors.

Because of this relevance to the aims of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and in light of the upcoming National Park Service centennial in 2016, we ask that you include a national campaign and partnership to connect Americans to a restored, strongly protected National Park System. Such a campaign can unite in the minds of the American public our efforts to bring education outside of the classroom, to protect our wildlife from habitat loss and climate change, and to encourage active outdoor lifestyles for young and old alike, while also providing important economic and employment benefits.

Through the America’s Great Outdoors listening sessions, the recent Ken Burns documentary, the National Parks Second Century Commission report and in your own personal lives, you have seen the important role that national parks have played in forming our nation’s outdoor legacy. In fact, polling conducted by Hart Research Associations shows that national parks are inherently linked to America’s Great Outdoors in the minds of the voting public. Most voters, when they hear the phrase “America’s Great Outdoors”, think first of national parks, and eighty percent of voters say national parks should be a centerpiece (forty-three percent) or important focus (thirty-seven percent) of the administration’s initiative.

We represent a broad range of interests, from tourism to education, philanthropy to recreation. We learned from the last Administration’s Centennial Challenge (an experiment in public-private partnerships for parks), and we want to translate those lessons to a new grassroots campaign for our national parks. Our organizations contributed some of the $32 million from the private sector that was matched with $25 million from the public sector in 2008 and 2009 to complete projects and fund programs in the national parks. We know what worked, what didn’t and how to improve public-private partnerships that will be the centerpiece of our nation’s new conservation strategy.

In the words of retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and National Parks Second Century Commissioner Sandra Day O’Connor, “There’s no better route to civic understanding than visiting our national parks. They’re who we are and where we’ve been.” Public lands in this country are owned by its citizens; national parks are a reservoir of opportunity to help Americans experience this sense of ownership, to enhance quality of life and to help communities foster healthier recreational access to the outdoors. Your administration has the opportunity to frame and solidify the National Park System’s legacy for the next hundred years.

We would appreciate the support of the Administration and would ask that the following core principles be prominent features of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative: (1) a commitment of federal dollars to ready the parks for their next 100 years; (2) a new, viable public-private partnership program to leverage philanthropy as we approach the centennial; (3) a campaign to increase Americans’ engagements with parks as we head toward 2016; and (4) a strategy to promote the educational, health and service benefits of national parks.

A truly historic America’s Great Outdoors initiative must have a prominent place for our national parks. We look forward to helping the Obama administration develop and implement an initiative that provides a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.


Katie Nyberg, Executive Director, Mississippi River Fund
Charles A. Money, Executive Director, Alaska Geographic
Greg Moore, Executive Director, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Neil J. Mulholland, President & CEO, National Park Foundation
Thomas C. Kiernan, President, National Parks Conservation Association
Frank Hugelmeyer, President & CEO, Outdoor Industry Association
Derrick A. Crandall, President, American Recreation Coalition
Dale Penny, President & CEO, Student Conservation Association
Terrence D. Jones, President and CEO, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
Joseph Fassler, Chairman, National Park Hospitality Association
Marla O'Byrne, President, Friends of Acadia
Nancy McKlveen, Chairman, National Affairs and Legislation Committee, Garden Club of America
Susie Wilmerding, Chairman, Conservation Committee, Garden Club of America
Deb Yandala, Chief Executive Officer, Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association
Mike Tollefson, President, Yosemite Conservancy
Donna Asbury, Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
Michael Cerletti, Chairman, Western States Tourism Policy Council
Linda Profaizer, President, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
James Campi, Policy and Communications Director, Civil War Preservation Trust
Karen Wade, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Western National Parks Association
Matthew Logan, President, C&O Canal Trust
Susan R. Sherman, Executive Director, Shenandoah National Park Trust
Jim Adams, Executive Director, Discover Your Northwest
Maggie Wittenburg, Business Manager, Manzanar History Association
John Reynolds, Deputy Director, retired, National Park Service
Susan Schroeder, Executive Director, Grand Canyon Association
Bruce Ward, President, Choose Outdoors
Susan Smartt, President & CEO, NatureBridge
Leslie A. Mattson, President, Grand Teton National Park Foundation
Eleanor B. Kittelson, Executive Director, Washington's National Park Fund
Kay Parish, Executive Director, Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military
Cory Counard MacNulty, Executive Director, Voyageurs National Park Association
Erica Rosenberg and Susan Tixier, Co-Directors, People United for Parks
Adam Cramer, Policy Architect, Outdoor Alliance (Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American
Whitewater, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance)
Mike Van Abel, Executive Director, International Mountain Bicycling Association
Dr. Gregory A. Miller, President, American Hiking Society
Stephen A. Briganti, President & CEO, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Rhonda Kruch, President, Manitou Islands Memorial Society
Judith R. McAlpin, President, Save Ellis Island, Inc.
Carol Hillman, Chairperson, Honoring Eleanor Roosevelt: A Project To Preserve her Val-Kill Home
Lyman Hafen, Executive Director, Zion Natural History Association & Zion National Park Foundation
Terry L. Maddox, Executive Director, Great Smoky Mountains Association
Forrest McCarthy, Public Lands Director, Winter Wildlands Alliance
Don R. Naimoli, Chairman, The Friends of Valley Forge Park
John Harris, President, First Flight Foundation
Joe Kessler, President, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park
Jim Hart, President, Friends of Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Curt Buchholtz, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Nature Association

Outdoor Recreation Idea of the Day is inspired by the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to connect Americans to the outdoors and its IdeaJam blog. ARC’s submissions to the blog can be found if you click here. Additional ideas that have been submitted to IdeaJam can be found in our September 2010 newsletter, which is here.