The National Park Service doesn’t turn 100 until August 2016, but the celebration took off in earnest a few weeks ago with the launch of Find Your Park, a multimedia marketing campaign with the goal of making the National Parks System a destination for millennials (who records show aren’t visiting National Parks nearly as much as the generations before them) and urban dwellers.
Their plan is to give Park diehards a direct platform to pull newbies into the outdoors. “To preach the gospel about being active in these incredible places, Find Your Park equips our veteran explorers with a mobile and online sharing platform to use with the tools they already have, like their smartphones and apps,” says Clarence Fluker, Centennial Public Affairs Specialist at the National Park Service.
To do your part, visit FindYourPark.com, a site where visitors can upload photos and videos illustrating their national park experiences in hopes they will impact and inspire others to do the same. Kiosks that are appearing in cities around America, will display your work. Then take the “quiz,” really a series of three questions about your ability level, interests, and location that will suggest Park ideas, or if you allow the website to know your location, it will spit out suggestions based on where you are. Hit up the website’s Download Center, which offers free guides including The Places Nobody Knows (off the beaten path parks), 25 Unforgettable National Park Hikes, and Gimme Shelter (where you can sleep in and around National Parks).
With the help of corporate sponsors, Find Your Park is promoting a Centennial Project contest showcasing 100 Find Your Park stories and featuring prizes including annual national park passes, camping gear, adventure kits, and a fully guided weekend getaway for two. These sponsors are also raising awareness about Find Your Park in their own ways. The American Hiking Society is inviting the public to upload headshots and their favorite hikes for a chance to be featured as the “Face of Your Favorite Trail.” Through 2017, REI, a corporate sponsor of the campaign, will roll out new gear and programs tailored for national parks. Another sponsor, Subaru, will launch preferred access to national parks via its Subaru owner loyalty program. And there are celebrities. Michelle Obama, Honorary Co-Chair of the National Park Service Centennial, is just one of the big names lending her face and voice to the Find Your Park movement though online videos—Bill Nye and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are some of the others. The U.S. Department of Interior and Glacier National Park are adding to the social noise by using the new live-stream app, Periscope.
Even though much of Find Your Park’s programming has yet to be announced (there will be periodic roll outs throughought 2015 and 2016), the national parks push that started in December following the announcement of the NPS’ largest expansion since 1978 is already starting to make an impact.
“We’ve been guiding national park multisport tours for more than 40 years, but these past four months have been insanely busy. Our 2015 bookings are up 32 percent from last year’s,” says Dan Austin, President and Founder of Austin Adventures, an adventure travel company owned by the largest national park concessioner in the U.S., Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
Last year saw the highest number of national park visits in history, with 292.8 million visits. But the NPS expects to surpass that number in 2015 and 2016.