photo of Mount Mitchell scenery

2016 marks the Centennial anniversaries of both the U.S. National Park Service and North Carolina State Parks. Each organization is holding a series of events throughout the year to celebrate this important milestone in recognition of the continued protection, stewardship and appreciation of our natural and historic places. Explore the National Park Centennial events here and the North Carolina State Park Centennial events here. NC State Parks has also put together a video showcasing NC parks’ rich natural resources and recreational opportunities. Nearby Eno River State Park is hosting its Centennial event, “March Forth on March Fourth,” from March 4-6 with a series of guided hikes that will collectively cover almost all 30 miles of trails available in the park. Learn more here.

National and State Parks in NC

NC’s National Park sites include such familiar destinations as the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and more. We even have Guilford Courthouse, a National Military Park, right next door in Guilford County! NC State Parks include favorites such as Grandfather Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, Jockey’s Ridge, and more. The closest local site is Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area in Hillsborough. If you’ve never been, this local gem offers several miles of hiking trails and beautiful views of the surrounding area from this small mountain’s summit, as well as picnicking and fishing.

A Little Park History

The first National Park in the U.S. was Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Yosemite National Park in California was also designated for preservation in the late 1800s, but remained a state park until the early 1900s. The U.S. National Park Service was formed on August 25, 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating the agency and charging it with stewardship of national parks and historic places; Stephen Mather was appointed the first director of the NPS. The National Parks system now includes 410 areas encompassing more than 84 million acres. Check out some quick facts about the National Park Service here.

The North Carolina State Parks system was also created in 1916. Mt. Mitchell State Park in Burnsville, NC, was one of the nation’s first state parks, and the first designated in North Carolina. It came into being through the efforts of concerned citizens and Governor Locke Craig. Since then, nearly a quarter million acres of land have been added to the NC park system. You can learn more about the history of NC State Parks here.

Both the National Park Service and the North Carolina State Parks system hope that the Centennial milestone will remind our communities of the importance and opportunities associated with conserving, protecting, and managing our nation’s and state’s natural and historic resources.

Resources: Historical information for this post was found through the NC State Parks and National Park Services websites, Wikipedia, and NCPedia. The cover photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Two Hearted River.