Today is an important milestone—100 years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill into law creating the National Park Service (NPS) to oversee the already-established national parks and all future parks.
Often called “America’s Best Idea,” when referring to our national parks, the purpose of the NPS is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife 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.” Learn more about the history of the National Park Service.
Three years later in 1919, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) was founded to be the independent, nonpartisan voice to strengthen and protect America’s most iconic and inspirational places.
A recent tweet from the NPCA caught my attention. It was an invitation to help select a new tagline for the organization: “Out with the old, in with the new. Help NPCA choose a new tagline” with a link to a survey with several options. None of them sparked my interest, so I kindly let them know they could do better. They asked for my suggestions—I love a good project, so I told them I’d think about it and send them a few ideas. Perfect thing to think about when running, so I laced up my shoes and off I went. Brainstorming a new tagline for NPCA is a wonderful way to celebrate and honor the centennial of NPS.
NPCA’s goal is to choose a tagline that engages, sounds pleasant, and seamlessly links back to its name. My very nonstrategic approach to this activity was to first write down words that resonated with me when I thought of our national parks. A few words that immediately came to mind: exploration, outdoors, experiences, stewardship, conservation, inspiration, learn, and stories. I took all of the 43 words and started connecting them into phrases and short sentences—mixing and matching them, letting it flow without any defined structure or internal sensor.
Here’s a few initial standouts that may have potential:
- Exploring is believing. Visiting is protecting.
- Stories to Inspire. Experiences to Protect.
- All Together for our Parks
- See me. Experience me. Protect me.
My favorite tagline so far is: Stories to Inspire. Experiences to Protect – I think it’s the strongest.
What I like about this one is it isn’t outwardly preachy about advocacy or using your voice (which can be a turnoff/scary for some) but instead focuses more on driving people to the parks and the benefits that result (positive experiences, stories to treasure, etc). People have to know what’s at loss before they’ll be concerned with protecting something.
Protection in this case, starts with getting people to visit and experience our parks. Stories to Inspire. Experiences to Protect implies park visitors will share their stories with others, ultimately, be a springboard to encourage their friends and family to visit – the circle of sharing then continues.
Whether or not NPCA uses my suggestions for inspiration, it was an incredibly fun activity and I have a new appreciation for its mission as well as the work of NPS. Next month, I’m heading to Yellowstone National Park with a good friend — it will be my first time visiting the park and I can’t wait for our combined stories, experiences, and memories.
In May, I shared in Preserving What’s Important my frustration with corporate interests encroaching on our national parks. Now is the time to visit our national treasures to make sure we still have them to explore 100 years from now. In celebration of NPS’ 100th birthday, admission is free to all 412 national parks this weekend (August 25-28).
Happy Birthday, NPS!
What’s your favorite national park story or memory? Please share it with me here.