$48 Million in Centennial Challenge Projects Announced by NPS

In early February, the National Park Service (NPS) announced about $48 million worth of Centennial Challenge projects, designed mostly to help national parks across the United States upgrade visitor services and improve outreach efforts to the public. The NPS especially hoped to attract more young people to visit the national parks. The Centennial Challenge program marks the beginning of the NPS’s second century. The U.S. Congress has provided $15 million for these projects in 2016, and another $33 million comes from more than 90 NPS partners. Partners include such organizations as the National Park Foundation, natural history associations, local school districts, youth associations, resorts, and marinas.

The 2016 Centennial Challenge program includes 69 projects at 63 parks in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. The program for 2016 follows up on progress made in the 2015 program, which cost about $22 million ($10 million of which had been funded by Congress). NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis described the Centennial Challenge program as being important to “further the National Park Service mission to protect, preserve, and share the nation’s most iconic sites with all Americans.”

Among the many projects slated for work in 2016 were new visitor center exhibits at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota; updating of the visitor center at Saguaro National Park in Arizona; restoration of a glass storefront at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona; new accessible trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in California and Glacier National Park in Montana; and fire-suppression systems at Glen Echo Park in Maryland and Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia. Other funded projects included resurfacing of the Crissy Field Promenade and new interpretive signage at Golden Gate National Recreational Area in California; and rehabilitation of the Conococheague Aqueduct at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Maryland.

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More than $4 million was set aside by the NPS for its Every Kid in a Park program, which includes, among other things, transportation to bring children, mainly from fourth grade, to national parks. As an example of previous activities in this program, children became involved in monitoring forest restoration efforts at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. Other activities in this program have sought to engage young people in developing new trial signs and to strengthen connections of modern-day Pueblo youth to their ancestors