By Laurie Baratti
Nature lovers around the nation should prepare to celebrate the presidentially proclaimed National Park Week this month, coming up April 16-24. During the event, the National Park Service (NPS) joins with U.S. national parks’ official booster, the National Park Foundation, to spotlight America’s precious preserved lands.
And, as a means of encouraging Americans to come out and discover the delights of its outdoor spaces, every national park across the country will waive its entrance fees on the first day the event kicks off: Saturday, April 16.
But throughout the week, the 400-plus national parks and sites overseen by the NPS will be hosting, “a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences,” according to the announcement. “National Park Week is a time to explore amazing places, discover stories of history and culture, help out, and find your park.”
With over 400 protected lands appearing in all sorts of shapes, sizes and designations (not all names necessarily include “national park”), you may discover there’s one much closer to home than you think. And, the NPS maintains programs and partnerships in communities all around the country.
This theme selected for this year’s National Park Week is “sPark Connections,” and each day of the celebratory week will explore a new theme within the broader one.
Here is a rundown of the planned focus for each day, as outlined on the official NPS website:
April 16: sPark Discovery – “National Park Week kicks off with a fee-free day to encourage everyone to find something new by visiting a national park, especially one that may be close to home, a park you haven’t considered visiting, or one you never realized is a national park! What new national park will you discover?”
April 17: sPark Creativity – “National parks have inspired artistic expression and creativity for generations. What is your park muse? What masterpiece can you create?”
April 18: sPark Collaboration – “We get along with a little help from our friends. Meet our many partners that help expand our reach and offerings and connect people to parks. How can you get involved or participate in opportunities?”
April 19: sPark Innovation – “The National Park Service incorporates the latest technology to support conservation and preservation efforts while consistently working to improve the visitor experience. How can we surprise you with innovation?”
April 20: sPark Opportunities – “On Workforce Wednesday, learn about the work we do and the employment opportunities available in the National Park Service and with partner organizations. How can you join?”
April 21: sPark Preservation – “The National Park Service is a leader and partner in preservation of historic, cultural, natural and recreational resources nationally—and even internationally! How can you get involved in preservation?”
April 22: sPark Action – “On Earth Day, we look at the health of the environment and how we impact its well-being and vice versa. What actions can you do to contribute to a healthy world?”
April 23: sPark Curiosity – “The National Park Service preserves and protects unique places with fascinating stories and unique landscapes. What are you curious about? What fascinating things can you discover?”
April 24: sPark Memories – “Generations of visitors have created lasting memories in national parks. What memories and traditions will you create?”
Most U.S. cities have lately dropped mask-wearing requirements, and the NPS updated its masking guidance last month to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new COVID-19 Community Levels tool. On that basis, masking requirements will vary according to each park’s local conditions, so it’s important for visitors to check individual parks’ websites prior to arriving. Also, remember that the federal mask mandate for all forms of public transportation, which was put into effect last February, isn’t set to expire until April 18.
For more information, visit nps.gov.
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