The National Park Service’s theme for National Park Week this year is “Find your Park,” and it’s nice to know that when you do find one, admission is free beginning this weekend.
The fee-free promotion, which begins Saturday and runs through Sunday, April 24 — so technically a week nine days long — is part of the kickoff for this year’s National Park Service 100th anniversary celebration. It’s designed to attract visitors to five NPS sites in Western Pennsylvania — Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Flight 93 National Memorial, Johnstown Flood National Memorial, Friendship Hill National Historic Site and the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site — and the 405 other national parks, memorials, battlefields, trails, seashores, monuments, scenic rivers and historic sites nationwide.
“This is not just a celebration of the past 100 years,” Mike Caldwell, NPS northeast regional director, said of plans to mark the anniversary. “It’s also a recognition of how we have evolved and are evolving to continue to be relevant to park visitors, stewards, advocates and the next generation of visitors. In the northeast region we are willing to try different programs, make needed adjustments and tell different stories.”
The Post-Gazette will recognize the park service’s centennial year with a series of articles to make readers aware of Pennsylvania’s 19 NPS sites and help them get to the sites. The series will also highlight some of the more obscure and even outlandish stories behind them.
The series will run every Thursday online at post-gazette.com and every Sunday in the newspaper from later this month through August. The first articles will provide a historical overview of the park service and focus on the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Gallitzin, Cambria County, and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia. They will appear online April 21 and in print April 24.
The park service’s “Find Your Park” focus for its centennial year grew out of a program launched in March 2015 to promote public awareness and inspire visitors from diverse backgrounds to connect with and support the system.
“We encourage everyone to find their own connection in the vast network of public lands and places that protect and preserve our natural and cultural heritage,” said Stephen Clark, NPS parks superintendent for Western Pennsylvania.