National Park Service’s 100th Birthday Celebrated at Cape Cod National Seashore

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: The Cape Symphony performs at the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service Thursday

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: The Cape Symphony performs at the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service Thursday

EASTHAM – The Cape Cod National Seashore hosted celebrations in Eastham and Provincetown Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, once called “America’s Best Idea.”

President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service on August 25, 1916.

100 years later, just over 84 million acres of land from California to Maine remain preserved forever, welcoming visitors to canyons, forests and vast stretches of beaches.

Just over 55 years ago, President John F. Kennedy, who relied on Cape Cod as a place of respite and solitude throughout his life, signed legislation in 1961 creating a new unit of the National Park Service with the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Encompassing more than 43,000 acres of land and endless miles of sandy beaches from Chatham to Provincetown, the Seashore is a haven for residents and visitors, attracting more than 4 million visitors yearly.

“By the time Cape Cod National Seashore came around in the 50’s and 60’s when the legislation was being written, we already had towns here for 400 years, so it was much more challenging. That’s why we came up with the Cape Cod model,” said National Seashore Superintendent George Price.

When President Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, the new bureau in the Department of the Interior was responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments that existed at the time and all that would be created in the future.

In part, the act read, “…the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is 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 the enjoyment of future generations.”

The Cape Cod National Seashore began the 100th anniversary celebration Thursday morning with a science fair on the grounds of the Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham and continued with their annual science symposium in the afternoon.

At the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown, activities included a scavenger hunt, Wampanoag music, a birthday cake and a U.S. Postal Service commemorative cancellation stamp ceremony.

The evening was capped off with a special outdoor concert by the Cape Symphony Orchestra in the amphitheater at the Salt Pond Visitors Center.

Selections reflected on nature and included “Peter and the Wolf” and “Carnival of Animals.” Park rangers also took part in the performance and narrated “Carnival of Animals” and a brand new piece that told the story of the birth of the National Park Service.

The Centennial 100th anniversary theme nationwide is “Find Your Park,” meant to emphasize the importance of individual exploration and making personal connection with these lands.

The precursor to the National Park Service actually dates back 44 years before President Wilson’s proclamation, with the Act of March 1, 1872, which established Yellowstone National Park Territories in Montana and Wyoming “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”

“In 1872, environmentalists had said with the Industrial Revolution, ‘there’s got to be a place to save, every place as we march across the country doesn’t need to be developed.’ It was easy in those days to draw a line around a territory that was already federal land,” said Price

According to the federal government, the founding of Yellowstone National Park began a worldwide national park movement. Today more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.

The National Park System of the United States now comprises more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.

Even before the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau opined about the beauty of the great Outer Beach.

“A man may stand there and put all America behind him,” he wrote.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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