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100 years of the National Park Service
NatParks 100 1
Amicalola State Park, the beginning of the nationally maintained Appalachian Trail. - photo by Micah Green

The National Parks Service in Georgia

* 11 National parks
* 7,527,855 visitors to national parks annually
* $387.1 million in rehabilitation projects stimulated by national park tourism
* 154,007 hours donated by volunteers
* 3 National heritage sites
* 2 National trails managed by NPS
* 2,086 National Register of Historic Places listings
* 49 National historic landmarks
* 11 National natural landmarks
* 301 archeological sites in national parks
* 21 threatened and endangered species

(Source: NPS, as of 9/30/15)

About this article

This article was originally published in the October/November 2016 issue of The Life-400 North, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.


The National Park Service is more than a parks system. It says it has reached some part of almost every American town. They route trails and build playgrounds. They conserve monuments and protect watersheds. They rebuild historic buildings and teach the next generation about their community’s past and about stewardship of the future.

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THE FIRST 100: LOOKING BACK

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A lot can happen in 100 years. Multiple generations can be born. Most people’s whole lives will commence and conclude. Entire countries can form and be destroyed. America has certainly grown, morphed, split, come together, mourned, celebrated, in the first century of the National Park Service, which has worked to take a snapshot of American life during any monumental time.

From marking a trail forged decades ago or preserving a historic battlefield, to conserving canyons and massive trees to protecting animals and connecting 50 different states with different goals to the same mindset: future generations will know who was here before them and what they saw, and they will be tasked, as their ancestors, with enabling their children and grandchildren to do the same.

The National Park Service celebrated a birthday on August 25, 100 years after the NPS Organic Act created the National Park System and a “collective expression of who we are as a people and where our values were forged,” the Call to Action says. “The national parks also deliver a message to future generations about the experiences that have made America a symbol of freedom and opportunity for the rest of the world.”

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A SECOND CENTURY: LOOKING AHEAD

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The NPS centennial, just like the NPS itself, is more than conservation. It is even more than education. Taking both those goals, 2016 has marked a call to action throughout Georgia and the nation to prepare for the “next century of stewardship and engagement.”

America is nothing like it was in 1916, when a footwar took over the world. Transportation was different. Technology was different. The work day. Family roles.

What has, on a grand-scale, not changed, is the availability of national parks. The deep confines of a mountain protected by miles of conservation land, or the historical sites that remain to this day because of volunteer stewardship.

These natural and historical amenities cannot exist in the growing expansion of our infrastructure and population without purposeful forethought to preserve them. The 2016 NPS Call to Action aims to prompt physical plans to be carried out, with a focus on connecting people to parks by using, not setting aside, technology, urban life and a diverse community.

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BEST PLACE TO...

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...SEE A WATERFALL

* Amicalola Falls

Spanning 729 feet, it is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Visitors can choose between an accessible pathway or a staircase trail that travels hundreds of steps. While the falls are actually within a state park, an 8.5-mile trail leads from it to Springer Mountain, the southern beginning of the Appalachian Trail, 2,175 miles of path whose other end is in Maine and that is maintained by the NPS. The falls are busiest right around now because of the turning leaves.

...WATCH THE SUNRISE

* Kennesaw Mountain

Sitting to the northwest of Atlanta, the sun rises over the skyline and among the 2,965-acre Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which is a preservation of a Civil War battleground where forces occupied and fought in June and July of 1864. The area’s history continued to be written into the Great Depression, when it was the site of Camp Brumby, a Civilian Conservation Camp, or CCC. President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated CCC’s as part of his New Deal program to help Americans recover from the Depression by employing young men to clear trails, plant trees, give tours and build signs, which are still used today.

...CATCH THE SUNSET

* Arabia Mountain

Opposite of Atlanta from Kennesaw Mountain, down I-20 east, lie granite monadnocks that patrolled Georgia’s rivers and forests for millions of years. The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area protects the surrounding natural wonders, including its 955-foot cratered summit.