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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Find Your Park - the National Park Service turns 100

Did you know that next year the National Park Service turns 100 years old?  Start planning your 2016 summer vacation now and head out to the parks where we will celebrate with gusto.  This is a perfect opportunity to take a road trip to multiple parks.

If you want to catch an early jump on the celebration, head out to your local National Park for National Park Week (April 18-26). The parks will be free on April 18th and 19th.  Do you already have a favorite National Park, be it natural or historical? Then join us at Find Your Park and share your meaningful moments at a National Park and see how other visitors connect to the parks.

Often visitors ask how I became a park ranger and my story is filled with gratitude toward two people: my dad and a park ranger I only met once.  Three years after I graduated college, I came from Oregon to visit my parents who had moved to Pennsylvania a couple of years before.  Knowing I enjoy history and historic structures, my parents took me to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  I remember it as a cold December day and we visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.  Later in the afternoon, we signed up for a tour of the Dolly Todd and Bishop White houses.  As it turned out, my mother, father, sister and myself were the only ones on the tour and we had the liberty to ask the ranger a barrage of questions.  At the end of the tour, my dad, who was the most friendly and personable man, thanked the ranger and said, "My daughter studied history and really loves this stuff." The ranger replied, "You are welcome." and turned to me and explained that the very day was the last day the park was accepting seasonal applications for the next summer. Having memorized my resume from writing it many, many times, I went straight to the park headquarters, filled out an application, and four months later, the park hired me for my first park ranger position with the National Park Service.

By the time I returned to Philadelphia for my new job, the ranger who was so kind to mention the job opening had left for another park so I never got to meet him.  I have been at Independence National Historical Park for almost two decades now and still love my job. Perhaps someday I will move on to another park and people will continue to ask me how I became a park ranger.  My story will stay the same, but hopefully someday it will end with me telling Park Ranger Loren G. in person thank you for his role in helping me discover such a fulfilling career, interesting people, and amazing places. That is how I found my park.

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