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US National Park Service Preparing for 100th Anniversary

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In this 2005 file photo, visitors view Half Dome from Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park, Calif.
In this 2005 file photo, visitors view Half Dome from Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Next year the U.S. National Park service turns 100. The centennial will be celebrated across the nation and in the 407 parks and historical sites maintained by the U.S. government.

Sally Jewell is Secretary of the Interior. Part of her job is overseeing the National Park Service. She was in New York City kicking off a new program called "Find Your Park," and she spoke with VOA by phone.

Secretary Jewell said being outside helps both children and adults in today's computer-driven world.

"In this fast-paced society, where we've got instant information at our fingertips, and things to distract our brains, there is little to distract our bodies and that's why parks and open spaces are so important and even more important with each passing year."

From beautiful wild lands and majestic mountains to historical and cultural sites, the national parks can be found in all 50 states across the U.S.

Yellowstone in Wyoming, Yosemite in California and the Grand Canyon in Arizona are examples of the natural beauty found in the national parks. Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia and Pullman National Monument in Chicago are two examples of the parks that preserve places where important historical events took place in the nation's history.

The parks had nearly 293 million visits in 2014. The Golden Gate Park in San Francisco was the most popular with 15 million visits. There are 28 different kinds of national parks, and just this week, the 407th park was dedicated. Honouliuli, in Hawaii, remembers the Japanese Americans who were held there during World War II.

Secretary Jewell said each park and site has an important story to tell.

"When you start to look at what those, each of those sites represent it paints a rich tapestry of our history and our culture. And we are doing a much better job in recent years of telling the whole history of our country."

Secretary Jewell has gathered some famous Americans to help promote the anniversary. First Lady Michelle Obama, and former First Lady Laura Bush are honorary co-chairs of the National Parks Centennial Celebration. Both first ladies share the experience of having lived in a national park, because the White House is one of the country's national parks.

In a statement, Mrs. Obama said she looks forward to celebrating the National Park's 100th anniversary. She is "encouraging people across the country to 'Find Your Park,' whether it's in your backyard, or your hometown, or in one of our beautiful national parks."

Some well-known Americans have filmed their own personal national park story and they can be seen on the National Park Foundation blog. Bill Nye, known as "The Science Guy," and actress Bella Thorne are two of the people who share their personal national park stories.

The program wants the public to share park experiences and memories at FindYourPark.com. The interactive website helps people find a park near their home, not just national parks, but local parks as well.

"It's really an opportunity and an inspirational message to get people out to get them moving, get them recognizing what parks and public lands have to offer."

The U.S. Congress established the first national park, Yellowstone, in the then-territories of Montana and Wyoming in 1872. President Woodrow Wilson formed the National Park Service in 1916 to "protect the wild and wonderful landscapes" in the United States. There were 35 national parks and monuments when President Wilson created the park service.

The United States was the first country in the world to set aside land for everyone to enjoy, and to keep its natural state. Now more than 100 countries have some national park or similar land set aside for preservation.

I'm Anne Ball.

Anne Ball reported and wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

maintain v. to keep something in good condition

majestic adj. large and very beautiful

dedicated v. to officially make (something) a place for honoring or remembering a person or an event

preservation n. the act of keeping something in its original state or in good condition

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