“It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In case you’re exhausted with politics, fortunately there are other options. In 1916, after the establishment of several National Parks, including Yellowstone, Mackinac and Yosemite, the National Park Service was established by President Wilson. This year being the centennial anniversary of its founding, the National Park Service is seeking to engage citizens of all stripes into a deeper relationship with the NPS system.
Georgia may not have the soaring heights of the Rockies or the depths of the Grand Canyon but there are many gems of the National Park Service within the borders of the Peach State. Georgia has an array of Historic Sites, Heritage Areas, National Monuments and the start of one very well-known trail.
Andersonville National Historic Site serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war and is a reminder of the horrors of the Civil War. Arabia Mountain, the Augusta Canal, Chickamauga and Chattanooga in Fort Oglethorpe, Forts Frederica and Pulaski, the Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor all offer an often-overlooked piece of American history from pre-Columbian times up to the Civil War.
Chris Abbett, the Associate Regional Director for Partnerships, Interpretation and Education in the Atlanta office ofthe NPS, says that the NPS is taking advantage of the centennial to expose the parks system to new communities and expand relationships with existing fans. The NPS is working with a group called Outdoor Afro – “Where Black People and Nature Meet” according to their website –  to connect African-Americans with natural spaces and recreational activities. Oakland CA-based Outdoor Afro’s Atlanta chapter hosts a variety of meetups for those in the Metro Atlanta region, including an upcoming event at the National Seashore on Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and large marshes offer a touch of wild coast often unseen by tourists at Jekyll or Tybee.
The Atlanta-based Greening Youth Foundation is another group partnering with the NPS to promote appreciation and recreation by diverse and underrepresented children, youth and young adults. GYF promotes environmental education programming as a way to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and create an overall healthy community. GYF also encourages the development of service and internship opportunities for youth and young adults to create the beginnings for conservation careers.
Georgia is one of the oldest and most bio-diverse states in the country and this is represented in its park system offerings. From the manatees, sea turtles and wild horses of Cumberland Island to the black bears and bobcats of the Appalachian Trail, Georgia truly has it all in the wilderness department. Some famous Georgia citizens’ influence in the U.S. is also represented in the NPS system. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains and the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site in Atlanta are both powerful reminders of Georgia natives’ importance in the history of our country. For history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts, Georgia’s piece of the National Park Service offers a little bit of everything and 2016 may just be a good time to reconnect.

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