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Guest Column: National Park Centennial celebrations pick up speed in August

by Jennie Vasarhelyi | Cuyahoga Valley National Park Published: August 10, 2016 6:56 PM

It is our birthday, and we invite you to join the celebration. On Aug. 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years old. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has events planned on the preceding weekend for people of all ages. While we have had centennial events throughout the year, this weekend is most like our birthday party.
What are we celebrating? At the most basic level, we are celebrating the birthday of a federal agency. On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act of Congress that created the National Park Service. The national park idea had been around since 1872 when Yellowstone became the first national park. Other national parks soon followed, but they were not part of a system with consistent policies and practices. People called for an organization to lead parks and focus on their protection. Their advocacy resulted in the 1916 law. To this day, the National Park Service is guided by the legislation’s call “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.”  
We are also celebrating 100 years of work accomplished by the National Park Service. The national park system has expanded many times, adding historic sites, memorials, recreation areas, and other places that reflect the nation’s diverse landscapes and history. The agency has also added programs support community preservation and outdoor recreation initiatives. Today, more than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 412 national parks and work with communities.
Finally, we are looking towards the future. The National Park Service is using the centennial to invite a new generation to discover these places that belong to us all. Parks around the nation are hosting welcoming events. The National Park Service and National Park Foundation have also created a virtual space for people to share their personal connections to parks through #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque. The associated websites, FindYourPark.com and EncuentraTuParque.com, are places to find events around the country.
So, how are we celebrating this August? Our primary event is Celebrate100! Party in Your National Park. It occurs on Sunday, Aug. 21, from noon to 5 p.m. at Howe Meadow (4040 Riverview Road, 4 miles south of Route 303 in Peninsula). The free, outdoor event features music, play, outdoor recreation, hands-on activities, and food. Acoustic pop duet Dala and Chicago blues artists Mississippi Heat will play shows at 1:30 and 3 p.m. respectively. At 1 p.m. the Singing Angels will present the Children’s Earth Anthem, a song composed specifically for the centennial by Charles Eversole, artistic director for the Singing Angels. Make sure you bring chairs or a blanket for lawn seating.
In addition to music, visitors to Celebrate100! Party in Your National Park will have their choice from many family-friendly activities, including:
• Paddle boarding or kayaking on Indigo Lake
• Food and beverage selections from the Conservancy Canteen and other vendors – including birthday cupcakes
• A 1-mile fun run for kids, with the first 200 entrants receiving a centennial-themed medallion
• Ollie the Otter scavenger hunt, giant coloring pages, bug boxes, games, crafts and live theatre
• Live animal demonstrations
• Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad model railroad display
• Art activity with Cleveland Museum of Art’s Studio Go
And lots more.
Additional activities take place on Saturday, Aug. 20 and throughout August.
Visit www.forcvnp.org/celebrate100 for details and registration information for the first two.
Events include:
• Founders Day Service Project. This community volunteer event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers ages 10 and up are invited to help with trail work, invasive plant removal, and tree planting to improve our national park.
• Picnic in the Park. The Countryside Conservancy holds this event from 9 a.m. to noon at as part of the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow. Chefs Doug Katz, Ben Bebenroth, and Ernie Cornelius will prepare seasonal picnic dishes sourced from market vendors. The annual tomato tasting will also take place.
• Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Children ages 12 and under ride free on National Park Scenics for the entire month of August with the purchase of an adult ticket.
Some have called national parks America’s Best Idea. We are lucky that northeast Ohio has a national park available to us every day. We hope to see you in the park this August.
Editor’s note: Vasarhelyi is Chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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