KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While East Tennesseans know and love the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an entire week of national park celebration is happening beginning on Saturday.
National Park Week is recognized by a presidential proclamation and each year, National Park Week is declared as a special time to celebrate the country’s now-423 national parks and programs and to encourage visitors to discover their diversity.
The National Park Service is encouraging park visitors to share their National Park Week experiences and memories on social media using the hashtags: #NationalParkWeek and #FindYourPark or #EncuentraTuParque.
Saturday, April 17 – ParkRx / Fee Free Day
National Park Service is kicking off the National Park Week with “the gift of good health by finding wellness in nature” by waiving fees so that visitors can get their dose of nature for free.
In the Smokies, the park is celebrating its Junior Ranger Day ahead of the National Junior Ranger Day on the 24th. The park’s website states that children and their families can join in a variety of free, hands-on activities including ranger-guided walks, historic toy making, visiting a blacksmith shop, and exploring touch tables with animal skins, skulls, and scat.
Information about specific programs is available at each visitor center. This year’s theme will be “Find Your Park.” Children can earn their Junior Ranger badge by completing three of the specially-planned activities.
Sunday, April 18 – Volunteer Sunday
Every year, thousands of people volunteer their time and efforts to support national parks. National Park Service will be thanking volunteers and kicking off its National Volunteer Week.
Tennessee is the Volunteer State, so it’s part of the local heritage — NPS has some suggested ways to celebrate Volunteer Sunday:
- Take action. Explore opportunities to volunteer with the National Park Service at nps.gov/volunteer.
- Inspire with your story. Share your own volunteer experiences by posting a photo of you volunteering with a message about why you volunteer on social media using #NPSVolunteer and #NationalParkWeek.
- Thank a volunteer. Use social media to give a shout-out to family and friends who volunteer using #NPSVolunteer and #NationalParkWeek.
- Celebrate. Follow along with the National Park Service and our parks, programs, and partners on social media as we thank our volunteers.
Monday, April 19 – Military Monday
As most Tennesseans are aware, there exist some battlefields that also border national parks; in fact, NPS operates one American Revolution battlefield and three Civil War battlefields in Tennessee — all connected to our nation’s military and veterans.
NPS says there are many national parks have direct connections to the American military—there are dozens of battlefields, military parks, and historic sites that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans. National parks and its programs and partners also offer endless opportunities for today’s military, veterans, and their families to enjoy their public lands and their own neighborhoods.
NPS will be celebrating and thanking our military for their service.
Tuesday, April 20 – Transformation Tuesday
NPS is encouraging park visitors to explore transformations in national parks and in their own neighborhoods through its partnerships and programs.
Park transformations through cleanups, infrastructure improvement and technology are still in the works. Legislation passed last year in the Great American Outdoors Act will help boost park transformative improvements in the coming years.
Wednesday, April 21 – Wayback Wednesday
For Wayback Wednesday, NPS is encouraging park visitors to explore the history preserved in national parks while also learning about the ongoing efforts of the National Park Service and partners to preserve America’s cultural treasures in communities across the country.
Thursday, April 22 – Earth Day
Earth Day is a global celebration that looks to educate and honor the stewardship of our home planet’s natural resources and NPS is designating its Earth Day Thursday as part of National Park Week.
This year’s global theme is “Restore Our Earth.”
A virtual event, “The Future of Conservation: Engaging the Next Generation of Public Land Leaders,” on Earth Day, April 22 at 1 p.m. ET. Co-hosted by the National Park Service in partnership with The Corps Network and the National Park Foundation, young leaders will share their passion and personal involvement with the conservation movement. Panelists will discuss the impacts and benefits service corps provide to national parks, participants, and local communities. Learn more about the event, including how to register.
Friday, April 23 – Friendship Friday
Mark your fun with friends for National Park Week for its Friendship Friday — and take a walk in your local national park and also join parks and programs as NPS thanks its partners.
NPS says the community of partners includes engaged citizens, passionate volunteers, cooperating associations, concessions, civic groups, or philanthropies all of whom share its mission.
Saturday, April 24 – National Junior Ranger Day
NPS National Junior Ranger Day focuses on teaching kids why national parks matter and how they can be a part of the team that helps keep parks healthy.
Kids can become an official Junior Ranger by looking for the virtual badges they can print out and post. The NPS Kids Portal is where to start their virtual national park experience and participate in fun activities and special online programs for the whole family.
Families can check out online and printable activities along with virtual tours, videos, and webcams from national parks all across the country.
Sunday, April 25 – BARK Ranger Day
Many visitors enjoying bringing along their dogs for a hike in their local national park — and NPS is reminding visitors of best practices.
NPS says the pets can become part of the BARK Ranger pack by modeling these best practices when visiting parks:
- Bag your pet’s waste
- Always leash your pet
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
BARK Ranger Day is happening on the last day of National Park Week 2021, April 25 — NPS invites visitors to join them on social media and share your pet’s fun park experiences using #BarkRanger and #NationalParkWeek.