How will you celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service?

During the summer of, 1916, Congress approved a bill to create a National Park Service and forwarded it for signature to President Woodrow Wilson. On August 25, President Wilson signed the bill, and finally, the nation’s national parks and monuments had a federal bureau to oversee them.

Like most great stories, the national park story centers on a few key people in the right place at the right time. In this story, the key player was Stephen T. Mather, a successful businessman and lover of nature and the outdoors, who had come to Washington, D.C. from his home in California to work with then Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane. The moment in time was 1915 and 1916, when Mather, expecting to help out for no more than a year, came to Washington and accepted responsibility for managing the parks and monuments that existed at the time, and took over the life of his initially reluctant young assistant, a fledgling attorney named Horace Albright.

Mather’s goal, quite simply, was to revolutionize America’s relationship with its still-young collection of federal parks.

Creation of the National Park Service was the culmination of a campaign of planning, strategizing and promoting led by two of the right men at the right time in the right place.

Once the bill was passed, President Wilson asked Mather to stay, along with his able assistant Horace Albright, as director and assistant director of the new National Park Service. Mather would remain in his role for the next decade. What the two of them accomplished during those years, and the work that Albright continued to do after succeeding Mather as director, is legendary. Their vision, their dedication, and their ability to get things done made all the difference in the amazing national park system we enjoy today.

This year we’ve been celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service in a variety of ways. In the spirit of the Centennial theme of “Find Your Park,” we hope you’ve sought out and found your park this year. We know that for many of you, that park is Zion and we are grateful for the support you give this wonderful place as a member of Zion Natural History Association.  On August 25, we hope you will join us in taking some time to deeply contemplate what the national parks mean to you, how blessed we are to have them, and consider what you can do, as the right person in the right place, at the right time, to make a difference in their future.

By Lyman Hafen, Executive Director