National Park System celebrates its centennial

National Park System Expansion: Confronting A Second Century Challenge

National Parks Traveler 5/19/16

The national park system centennial in 2016 presents an important opportunity to reflect on the system’s enormous growth and change since its inception. From a mere handful of national parks scattered across the West in 1916, the system now exceeds 410 units stretching across all 50 states and covering roughly 84 million acres. It contains national parks, monuments, preserves, recreation areas, seashores, battlefields, and heritage areas along with nearly a dozen other specific designations, all deemed nationally significant enough to merit a place in the system. In 2014, Congress commendably added another seven units to the system, and the President has since added several more national monuments. These actions confirm that this revered national treasure is not complete, and raising the prospect that the centennial itself might yet see more additions to the system.  The spectacular growth in the national park system presents the question of how additions come about and what might be done to prompt further additions as we move into the system’s second century.



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