Celebrate Three Centennials

1916 was a banner year for the formation of parks and forests that would protect some of America's most beautiful and possibly endangered natural resources. In 2016, the North Carolina State Parks System, the National Park Service, and Pisgah National Forest will celebrate 100 years of stewardship of these lands, which have become our state and national parks and a national forest.

North Carolina State Parks

In 1915, a bill was introduced in the state legislature establishing Mount Mitchell as the first state park. The legislation passed both houses quickly and on March 3, 1915, the North Carolina State Parks System came into being. By the end of 1916, 795 acres had been acquired to create the first state park in the Southeast.

Today, there are 41 state parks and state recreation areas, as well as 33 undeveloped conservation areas, ranging from mountains to piedmont to coast. Eleven state parks are within the footprint of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. North Carolina will celebrate the centennial throughout 2015-2016 with a series of special events at every state park and signature events at Mount Mitchell and Fort Macon.

National Park Service

In 2016 the NPS Centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks by engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs, and will celebrate achievements of the past 100 years.

Within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area lie two of the nation's most visited national parks--the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway--as well as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.  Each National Park unit will be celebrating with its own activities and events.

Blue Ridge Parkway 100 Ways Initiative

Stretching almost 500 miles through North Carolina and Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides visitors with a series of panoramic views, protects significant mountain landscapes, and is a "museum of the managed American countryside."

The protection of the Parkway and surrounding region is an immense task, with much at stake. The Parkway of tomorrow will be defined by the extent to which people today are willing to speak out on behalf of the Parkway and to invest in its future.

The ‘100 Ways’ website offers visitors the opportunity to discover 100 opportunities to connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway through partner organizations. Whether it’s rolling up your sleeves to help with trail maintenance or celebrating Appalachia’s musical heritage with a performance at the Blue Ridge Music Center, this comprehensive list enables all to experience, enjoy, and give back to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The ‘100 Ways’ site is part of a larger effort to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service by connecting and creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.

Find Your Park

Both the National Park Service and the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation hope to build awareness and engage younger parkgoers.  In fact, the centerpiece of the NPS Centennial will be a broad public engagement campaign, "Find Your Park," to reintroduce the national parks and the work of the National Park Service to a new generation of Americans, inviting them to visit and get involved. The two-year effort will begin in 2015 and run throughout theNational ParkService’s 100th anniversary year in 2016.

Pisgah National Forest

The Pisgah National Forest was the first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911. The Act allowed the use of federal funding to purchase forest land for conservation and appropriated $9 million to purchase 6 million acres of land in the eastern United States. The Pisgah was created in 1916. Comprised of over 500,000 acres, the Pisgah is home of the first school of forestry in the United States, now preserved at the Cradle of Forestry in America historic site, and boasts two of the first designated wilderness areas in the east.