Park Service Centennial celebration starts to pick up steam By JOY CRIST
big push of the Centennial is to “connect with and create the next
generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates,” and this goal
is effectively broken down into four “Call to Action” categories, which
are being orchestrated all across America. These categories are
Connecting People to Parks, Advancing the NPS Education Mission,
Preserving America's Special Places, and Enhancing Professional and
Organizational Excellence, and a number of upcoming events or projects
tie into multiple themes or components of this nationwide plan.
So what’s in the works for the big 100-year birthday party? There are a
range of events that are already on the calendar, as well as some
larger projects that may take some time to implement, but which will
hopefully have some big results.
Here’s what’s being planned and orchestrated so far for the Outer Banks
Group of national parks that includes Cape Hatteras National Seashore,
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National
SEASHORE DARK SKY DESIGNATION
One of the first initiatives of the local Park Service is working to
qualify the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as a “dark sky park” – an
undertaking that was started more than a year ago.
The designation is made by the International Dark Sky Association,
www.darksky.org, a non-profit group based in Arizona, and it's hard to
achieve. There’s only one other park in the southeast that has this
title, and it's in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. A dark sky
park is defined as a park that has “exceptional starry skies,” where
light pollution is minimized, and where a natural dark environment is
The hope is that the designation will increase visitation to the Cape
Hatters National Seashore, especially during the off-season and winter
months when, as locals know all too well, the island is particularly
dark at night.
In December, the National Park Service hosted a “Starry Skies” program
at the Salvo Day Use area, and NPS staff members are planning to hold
additional night sky programs throughout the year, including one that’s
already scheduled for “Founder’s Day” on Aug. 25, at the Ocracoke Day
Use area at 8:30 p.m.
There are multiple phases to obtaining a dark sky park designation, and
the first phase – which is conducting a lighting inventory throughout
the park – is already complete.
The next step, which is currently underway, entails identifying lights
that need to be retro-fitted and updating them accordingly. It may be
another year or two before the process is complete, but the massive
project is one of the biggest and most ambitious components of the
local Centennial Celebration.
MORE PADDLING TRAILS
Another big project that may take a while to complete, but which has
more or less already begun, is the creation of more paddling trails all
along the national seashore. The aim is to add paddling trails,
complete with launches, at several different locations along the
shoreline, including Ocracoke Island, Hatteras Island, and Bodie
Island, ensuring that visitors all along the Outer Banks will find a
paddling trail close at hand.
The paperwork has been started, but the project is moving slowly
because of the number of regulations that must be followed, such as
ensuring the site is accessible to the handicapped.
Though there’s not a lot of details yet as to where the sites will
eventually be located, the new paddling trails are something for locals
and visitors to be on the lookout for in the year to come.
OUTER BANKS HISTORY CENTER EXHIBITION
The National Park Service is partnering with the Outer Banks History
Center in Manteo to host a year-long exhibit that will highlight events
from park histories and showcase the resources of the Outer Banks Group
The opening night reception is on Friday, March 4, from 5:30 until 7:30
p.m., and the public is invited. The exhibit will run from March
5 - Dec. 31.
The next big event on the calendar is a naturalization ceremony to be
held at the Wright Brothers Memorial at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 16,
which is during National Park Week. Though these citizenship ceremonies
have been held at other national parks before, this will be the first
time one has been held at the Wright Memorial, and the public is
welcome to attend.
The NPS is partnering with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service for
this event and is also partnering with local and statewide schools so
that students can watch and learn about the process of becoming an
On Roanoke Island, the Fort Colony Foundation is planning an
archeological dig at the historic Fort Raleigh site, where the Lost
Colony was established. The site memorializes the first English
settlement in the New World, established in 1587 and eventually
abandoned with no survivors ever found.
The hope is that the dig near the earthen fort site will uncover new
artifacts from the original settlement, and garner new interest about
Fort Raleigh and the Lost Colony itself. The dig, entitled "Project
Dogwood," is planned for April 17-23.
LOST COLONY OUTDOOR DRAMA
Because reaching out to youth to get them more involved is a big part
of the Centennial, the NPS has also partnered with the "Lost Colony"
outdoor drama in Manteo to extend the fourth grade voucher program.
Through this program, fourth graders who fill out an online form
receive a voucher for free access to the park of their choice, and The
Lost Colony is honoring this initiative as well, by allowing fourth
graders with a parent in tow free access to the acclaimed drama with
the voucher. The opening night for The Lost Colony is May 27, which is
when the season will be officially dedicated to the National Park, and
the drama will unveil its new main narrator -- a “park ranger.”
In addition to the kid-centric voucher program, The Lost Colony and
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site are also offering a host of other
activities in conjunction with the NPS Centennial. The park facilities,
which include the visitors’ centers and restrooms, will be open
extended hours, to 6:30 p.m., so that play patrons can look around
before show time. A number of Junior Ranger and Visitors Center
programs are also planned, and a Park Passport stamp and Centennial
stamp will be available at the Lost Colony, in addition to the actual
national parks on the Outer Banks.
NATIONAL AVIATION DAY
On National Aviation Day, Aug. 19, the Wright Brothers Memorial will be
the site of another Centennial event as NASA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and
the First Flight Society combine to create a joint celebration.
Hands-on activities will be available for kids to learn more about the
principles behind aviation and science-based programs or displays are
also in the works to make this date stand out on the calendar.
113TH ANNIVERSARY OF CONTROLLED POWERED FLIGHT
The annual Dec. 17 anniversary of the First Flight at the Wright
Brothers Memorial will also be revved up for the Centennial
Celebration, with a wide range of speakers, musicians, and descendants
of the Wright Brothers scheduled to appear. The Smithsonian Institution
will also be involved with the celebration, as well as local community
members and the First Flight Society, bringing the world-changing event
close to home.
IDEAS AND PROGRAMS WELCOME
In addition to the programs already on the books, the National Park
Service is also encouraging any group or organization that wants to
sponsor a program on the seashore – from youth fishing to birdwatching
– to contact them for support and guidance on how to proceed. While
staff may not be able to be on-hand to assist with the details of the
proposed program, groups are welcome to utilize a park site if they
have an interest, outing, or project in mind.
More events for the Centennial will be planned throughout the
year, and the Island Free Press will continue to monitor the Centennial
Celebration and post updates on projects, as well as new
happenings that may be on the horizon.
For more information, contact Lynne Belanich, Centennial Coordinator at [email protected].