Image courtesy Chris Light

Today is the 95th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s signing of the Organic Act, the legislation that created the National Park Service.  Like all large organizations the NPS is not perfect.  Still, our nation would be a smaller place culturally and intellectually were it not for the existence of our national parks and the people who work in them.  Right now rangers are working harder than ever to ensure that visitors have a rewarding and meaningful experience.  Nowhere is this truer than at the Civil War battlefields and dozens of other sites related to the War of the Rebellion and the era.  It remains to be seen how the country’s economic problems will effect the parks in the long term.  Given the serious challenges we face today it is unlikely that the NPS will be able to undertake the types of projects it did in the 1950s and 1960s as it prepared for its 50th anniversary in 1966.  The parks are especially vulnerable because they are not seen as essential services necessary in the course of our daily lives.  Still, there are encouraging signs.  Visitation has never been higher at the Civil War related sites and is only expected to grow in the next few years.  The Park has also embraced social media, such as podcasting, in a big way.  We will see what the future brings.  One thing seems certain: the best way to protect our parks is to visit them.