National Parks Call on Americans to ‘Find Your Park’

After nearly 100 years, the National Park Service holds some of the most beautiful and historic places in the country, though there’s also an $11 billion backlog of unfunded maintenance and a visitor base that’s aging and mostly white.

With its centennial approaching in 2016, the park service will launch a major campaign this week in New York City to raise support and introduce a new, more diverse generation of millennials and children to “America’s best idea,” the national parks. First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush will co-chair the campaign, calling on Americans to “Find Your Park” to enjoy their public lands.

Sustaining the national parks and keeping them relevant to visitors for another 50 or 100 years is a growing challenge, say park officials. Many facilities date back 50 years or more and are in danger of failing entirely.

The push to “Find Your Park” is the third major campaign in the national parks’ history.

An outcry over deplorable park conditions in 1915 originally led to the creation of the National Park Service. In the 1950s, there were calls to close parks because of their neglected conditions. That inspired a campaign to rebuild infrastructure and invite returning World War II veterans and their families to visit parks.

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