Just What are National Parks, Anyway?

National parks are wonderful resources. In this era of constant deforestation and construction, national parks offer a bit of a respite. These federally protected areas are good for the environment and good for us, as they give us a place to get out of the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Many people do not fully understand the purpose and need for national parks, and in this article, we will address some of the most frequent questions about them.

In the United States, what activities are forbidden in national parks?

The exact rules vary by park, but in general, any activity that disturbs the natural environment is prohibited. This includes building campfires outside of designated fire rings, cutting trees whether alive or dead, gathering firewood, hunting, littering, throwing coins into fountains or pools, or any other activity that may be damaging to the environment.

Ever Entertaining Elk of Rocky Mountain National Park

What is the value of national parks?

National parks exist to preserve our history. Without the national parks, many historically and environmentally important landmarks would be subject to destruction and decay. The national parks also provide a place for us to visit to escape from the mundane world. The cultural and recreational significance of national parks is tremendous.

Does it cost money to visit the national parks?

The national parks do charge a nominal entrance fee as well as additional fees for expanded activities such as camping. Fees vary by park, so please contact the park you wish to visit in advance. A variety of passes is also available.

Is the National Park Service involved in any research or preservation activities?

The National Park Service is affiliated with a wide variety of scientists from many different fields who are performing innovative research into environmental preservation. The NPS recognizes that the hands-off management style employed throughout most of the 20th century is not sufficient, and now seeks to take a much more proactive role in preservation, not only at the parks but globally.

How can I get involved?

The National Park Service offers a variety of ways for citizens to become involved. One of the most common ways to help is to become a National Park Service volunteer. Volunteers in Fiscal Year 2005 contributed a total of 5.2 million hours.

Volunteers are needed in a surprising array of positions from campground host to gardener to historical re-enactor. Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov for details on current opportunities.

Volunteers may be compensated in some way such as a free campsite, although compensation varies by park. If you log 500 hours within a year, you will receive a Volunteer Pass that works similarly to an Annual Pass for federal parks.

Youth programs for Americans aged 5 to 24 are managed in partnership with many agencies from the Scouts to Job Corps. The youth programs are designed to give children and young adults the opportunity to become more familiar with the national parks through a combination of education and work experience.

It is believed that the early experience with the national parks will build a lifelong respect and concern for the parks specifically as well as preservation as a whole.

Internships are available to students in a variety of majors. An internship provides hands on experience in the student’s field of study. Please visit the NPS website at www.nps.gov for information on applying for an internship.

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