On the bright side, America’s national parks attracted 292.8 million visits in 2014. This record suggests that citizens and tourists are taking full advantage of what the US has to offer.
However, park visitors are getting older, and the number of youths visiting national parks has decreased by half over the past decade. The average age of visitors to Yellowstone is 54, and for Denali, 57. Some people attribute this to the tendency of today’s youth to be plugged in electronically rather than being out enjoying natural wonders.
The National Park Service is working to counter this trend with its Junior Ranger Program for children aged 5 to 13. They are trying to engage youths in both the natural wonders of our parks and the lives of park rangers. Almost all national parks take part in this program that offers fun activities to youths and gives them an official Junior Ranger certificate and patch.
This program is highly successful, and over 800,000 children became Junior Rangers last year. The National Park Service will be officially celebrating National Junior Ranger Day on April 25 with a variety of exciting special events for kids.
The events vary depending on the park and are geared towards local history. For instance, Fort Donelson National Battlefield will offer a historical reenactment of Fort daily life along with other special offerings to engage local children.
This day is an opportunity for park rangers to work in concert with local volunteers to interest children in the national park system. For example, partners for National Junior Ranger Day at Fort Donelson include:
- Calloway County Conservation District
- Calloway County Cooperative Extension Office
- Four Fivers Watershed Watch
- Kentucky Orphans Brigade Reenactors
- Jackson Purchase Foundation
In addition to becoming park visitors for life, the National Park Service hopes that some of these Junior Rangers will become the next wave of park rangers.