Celebrate the Centennial

Mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this summer
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Mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this summer

Here’s a riddle for you: What has trees, rivers, mountains, wildlife and historical significance; belongs to every American; and is turning 100 on Aug. 25?

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Upper and lower Yosemite Falls in California’s Yosemite National Park.
CREDIT: NPS/Damon Joyce Our national parks! Or more specifically, the U.S. National Park Service. Yes, fans of the great outdoors, it’s time to celebrate a century of tender loving care for the beauty, majesty and history of federal land.

There are over 400 parks in the National Park System, with 84 million acres and found in every single state and territory. We’re talkin’ national parks, battlefields, historic sites, seashores, lakeshores, monuments, recreation areas, military parks and even the White House.

Why should this be important to you, radio broadcaster?

Because the number of recreational visitors to the national parks last year totaled over 300 million people. That’s a lot of listeners with emotional ties to this brand of national pride and recreation. There are lots of ways for your station to get involved in the celebration of the centennial. Let’s explore a few.

A few news/talk stations have already run initial stories about the anniversary celebration. This is a good way to start, but I encourage spoken-word formats to go much deeper than a one-and-done introductory story.

Between now and the anniversary in August, consider scheduling a series focusing on the national parks located near your listening audience. Interview locals and find out what they love about those particular parks, probing for memories. Conclude each story by asking listeners to submit their own photos and stories. Next, archive this audio series on your website with these photos and a link to the National Park Foundation site that offers specifics on how people can become volunteers or donate funds.

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Music stations could also consider a photo contest in honor of the anniversary. All of the photos could be placed online and a vote could occur with winners selected for various levels of prizes including hiking gear, cameras, tents, etc. Perhaps the grand prize could be sending the winner and a guest to see other amazing national parks across the country.

Could you get your act together quickly for a national park fundraiser? There’s a lot to fix in our parks, but funds are lacking in the budget. If you could manage a radiothon, or even a pay-for-play weekend or two, you’d score points with listeners (as well as the feds).

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Many parks are hosting events this summer that you can help promote on-air. Pre-promote and then send someone to attend and check in to report what’s going on. Mobilizing your community to do something worthwhile is rewarding for participants and creates “feel-good” time for the station.

On July 30, the American Solar Challenge hits the road with solar-powered cars making official stops at nine national parks in seven states. Lots of historic sites will also serve as checkpoints. Maybe there’s a way you can get in on the race. People will be quite curious about these solar-powered cars, and it would be cool to be involved with this activity.

Many Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will participate in the celebration. Can you help out local scouts with fundraising efforts or publicity? Ask them what they’re up to and how you can provide media assistance.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure also to plan some promotional event for the actual anniversary celebration on Aug. 25.

Search for park activities — or at least air announcements featuring your listeners, local politicians and local celebrities all wishing our National Park system a special “Happy Birthday.”

Looking for volunteers who know a lot about the parks? Contact the National Park Foundation or get in touch with the Student Conservation Association. SCA has been around since 1957 and has had more than 75,000 people provide 28 million hours of hands-on service for the environment. This can be a great resource to get your community involved in volunteer work, especially if you aren’t actually located especially near to a U.S. national park.

Are you interested, but still not sure if this is a good fit for your station? Start your exploration by visiting the website created specifically for the NPS centennial campaign: findyourpark.com. Clicking around will trigger all kinds of great ideas of how you can get in on the fun.