Two weeks ago, I along with representatives from 12 southeastern states went for our annual Congressional Summit in Washington. Southeast Tourism Society (STS) heads up this annual event. I am on the STS Policy Council which deals with governmental issues as they revolve around the tourism industry, both domestic and international. Myself and a few other representatives from Alabama call on our legislative delegation in Washington. Representatives from other states call on their state delegations. Each year there is a list of topics we request our elected officials to support. Tourism is a breath of fresh air for our congressmen and senators considering that our issues are usually supported equally by both parties and they are typically not controversial among themselves or their constituents. My assigned topic this year is one I am particularly fond of; our National Park Service (NPS). I am the current President of the Friends of the Preserve at Little River Canyon N.P. and our National Park system has provided me a lifetime of joy so I felt it to be a good topic for me. It was an honor to talk about our NPS with each of our Alabama Congressmen and Senators. This year my topic was the upcoming Centennial of our National Park Service in 2016. There will be a big celebration nationwide during the centennial year. You will soon start hearing more about this as the NPS will begin a marketing and publicity program about the anniversary and in addition many of the NPS units nationwide will have celebration events of their own. All we asked of our legislator is continued support of? Our national treasure in the National Park System. This support comes in keeping our parks funded and staffed to allow the parks to continue providing their visitors one of the best, most beautiful vacation possibilities in the world. In addition we asked for support in making the centennial celebration a big hit both domestically and internationally. Our NPS units have always been one of the most visited attractions by domestic and international travelers.
Other issues discussed were a continuation of Brand USA which is a self funded government sponsored marketing unit promoting the USA as an international destination. Another topic was to make it easier and faster for international travelers to get Visas to travel to the USA on vacation.
In preparation of the 100 year anniversary of our National Park Service here is a little history.
Ulysses S. Grant, on March 1, 1872, signed documents making Yellowstone a National Park, making it the first in the United Sates and the first in the world. As of 2012 there are 401 units of the National Park Service that include; National Parks, Preserves, Monuments, Historic Parks, history sites, battlefields, military parks, memorials, recreation areas, seashores, lakeshores, rivers, parkways, historic and scenic trails, cemeteries and heritage areas. All of these national treasures are for you and I to enjoy and all are of equal value in the National Park Service hierarchy.
If you ever question the work of our federal government please take a trip to Little River Canyon National Preserve or any of the 400 other park service units and you will see government at its very best. There is no park system in the world like ours and it should make us all feel very good that so much land and so many historic and cultural sites have been protected for us to enjoy. If you want to compare private enterprise to the park system go to Pigeon Forge, TN. There you will find private enterprise booming with lots of attractions creating a lot of jobs with a lot of places to spend your money that brings major dollars to the tax revenue collections in that area. It is tourism development at its max, then go just down the road and enter the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and you will see our Federal Government at its best (for every federal dollar spend on the NPS $10 are brought into the local economy). Thank goodness we have both, because they are both important aspects of our great American culture. Our National Park system forever keeps the beauty and history of our country alive and what a great feeling it is to hike, camp, ride a bike or horse in one of our N.P.s or just sit out and take in the quiet beauty of a perfectly protected environment that is hermetically clean, mowed, trimmed and without litter. Thank you federal government for our National Park System…a true national treasure.