The Year of the Park
February 16, 2016
Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the then territories of Montana and Wyoming "as a public park...for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and placed it under the control of the Department of the Interior (DOI). In the years following this designation, additional national parks were established, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act creating the National Park Service, a new federal agency responsible for protecting the nation's parks and monuments.
Today, the National Park System in the United States is made up of more than 400 parks, recreation areas and monuments covering more than 84 million acres in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan and the Virgin Islands. And, more than 20,000 National Park Service (NPS) employees, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers, care for these parks and help welcome nearly 300 million visitors annually.
2016 marks the National Park Service's 100th birthday and American Express is proud to be one of the premier partners in the campaign to celebrate this important milestone and to help strengthen NPS so that it's prepared to meet the challenges of the next century.
In celebration of the Centennial, the National Park Service, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, has launched Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque, a movement designed to inspire Americans to explore all that our national parks have to offer, to share their experiences with others, and to support these treasured places. Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque invites the public to see that a national park is more than a place - it can be a feeling, a state of mind or a sense of American pride. In addition to showcasing beautiful vistas and vast landscapes, the movement highlights some of the lesser known - but equally important - historical, urban and cultural parks, and introduces communities to a range of NPS programs that protect, preserve and share nature, culture and history for everyone to enjoy.
American Express joined this movement to help DOI achieve its goal of tripling the number of volunteers in parks and public lands from about 300,000 to 1 million annually. To date, American Express has committed nearly $7 million to this cause, and has helped to create a coalition of partners such as the Student Conservation Association, the National Geographic Society, Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues and the YMCA of the USA - all of whom are implementing programs to engage the public in volunteering in parks and on public lands over the next two years.
Last March, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel joined me in announcing this commitment at Castle Clinton, one of many national parks and monuments located in New York City. As part of this commitment, 50 U.S. cities are receiving financial resources to hire volunteer coordinators who are charged with the responsibility of increasing volunteerism in parks and public lands in their communities. Led by the YMCA of the USA, these volunteer coordinators have been announced in 24 cities in 2015. The remaining cities will be announced throughout this year.
Through the Find Your Park Days of Service program, American Express and the Student Conservation Association are hosting a series of large scale volunteer events occurring throughout 2016 on national days of service such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Earth Day, National Trails Day, September 11th National Day of Service, and Veteran's Day. These events will engage more than 6,000 community members who will dedicate more than 25,000 hours to conserving and revitalizing 200,000 acres of public land and green space in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.
In an effort to protect and revitalize America's parks and public lands, Team Rubicon is developing a new program to engage its veteran volunteer members in disaster mitigation and habitat improvement projects with the Department of the Interior and its land management agencies. Since its first mission to Haiti in 2010, Team Rubicon has deployed over 3,500 veterans who have provided over 250,000 hours of disaster relief through 103 deployments, including response efforts such as Hurricane Sandy, Texas Flooding and the Nepal Earthquake.
Finally, a special edition American Express Prepaid Gift Card is now available online featuring the iconic Yosemite National Park and benefiting the National Park Foundation. For each card sold, American Express will donate an amount equal to the purchase fee to the National Park Foundation to help preserve and enrich America's national parks and programs.
The Prepaid Gift Card's artwork was selected through a Facebook campaign that occurred over the week leading to the 4th of July, 2015. We posted three card designs on our American Express Facebook page and asked our followers to "like" the image of the card that they wanted us to create. Of the three options - Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite - Yosemite received the highest number of votes with over 5,000 likes.
In total, American Express has committed over $13 million to support our national parks and monuments in the 2015-2017 Centennial anniversary period, and we'll be announcing several other programs and initiatives in the coming months. So, stayed tuned and #FindYourPark!
If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.