by Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust
Preserving parks today; creating park stewards for tomorrow.
Celebrated each year on April 22nd, this year’s Earth Day falls during National Park Week (April 15th through April 23rd). National Park Week is celebrated at more than 400 national park units across the country, many of which are located right in our backyard. Did you know that the White House, National Mall, Rock Creek Park and the C & O Canal all are National Parks?
Earth Day is a time to pause, think, and take action to protect our environment – something that is at the core of the mission of National Park Trust (NPT), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit included in this year’s Catalogue for Philanthropy. For more than 30 years, NPT has worked to protect our national parks locally and across the country. Our mission focuses on preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow.
NPT acquires privately owned lands located within and adjacent to our national parks including national parks in the DC-metro area. There are millions of acres of privately owned land located inside the boundaries of our national parks. NPT’s land acquisition projects are selected from a high-priority “wish list” provided to us by the National Park Service; many are at risk for development.
The long-term protection of our country’s unique natural, historic and cultural treasures depends on our youth – our future stewards who will protect these special places for generations to enjoy. Most of the visitors to our national parks are white and aging. If our parks are to be protected in perpetuity, we must connect our growing young and diverse populations with these special places. Simply said: kids need parks — and parks need kids.
That’s why in 2009 we launched our fun and innovative Buddy Bison School Program in the DC-metro area in six under-served elementary and middle schools. At the heart of the program is our mascot Buddy Bison who encourages kids to explore outdoors, the parks are yours! Little did we know how quickly (in just eight short years!) our program would grow, as teachers eagerly incorporated environmental education into their classrooms. As a result, and thanks to the outstanding support from our donors, we now fund 60 Title I schools locally and across the country. Our dream? To grow and sustain 100 schools in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, which was celebrated last year.
The Buddy Bison program provides park trips tying in STEM, history and social studies curricula. In addition to being terrific outdoor classrooms, parks are also ideal places where students can learn about health and wellness through outdoor recreation and park stewardship through career and volunteer opportunities.
This Earth Day, we invite you to join us in taking action to protect and preserve our national parks and the environment. Then on Saturday, May 20th, let’s keep the momentum going by celebrating Kids to Parks Day – a national day of outdoor play, organized by NPT, that focuses on kids, our future park stewards. There are lots of free park events registered at kidstoparks.org including several in our backyard.
If you’d like to learn more about our work and how you can get involved, visit parktrust.org because…Every day is Earth Day at National Park Trust!