Celebrate Health With the National Park Service

  • Claim your invitation to the nation’s biggest party!
  • Could you take the challenge? One rural community has…
  • Join the celebration at one of 411 locations. Find out how…

Dear Reader,

2016 marks the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) in the United States. To mark the celebration, national parks all over the country are hosting special centennial events and programs as a sort of nationwide birthday party.

And guess what? You’re invited!

Plus, with 411 parks in their system, you’re bound to find a national park site near you to get out and enjoy — and maybe one you’ve never seen before. I’ll share a few tips on how to find a centennial celebration near you in a moment.

Last week, Living Well Daily was able to explore New River Gorge National River park. While there, we met up with Julena Campbell, chief of interpretation and education for New River Gorge, to talk about how they are celebrating the centennial at her park.

And what we found was an amazing turnout from the local community. I’ll give you the details…

--The Community’s Parks

New River Gorge National River is neighbors with two other national parks — the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

While all three parks are technically national parks and are free to anyone who wants to visit, the surrounding communities are making the parks theirs.

Here’s how…

The park’s signature centennial celebration is a 100-mile challenge. The original goal of the challenge was to get local residents to enjoy the national parks in their own backyard and get moving by completing 100 miles of hiking in New River Gorge National River and Bluestone National Scenic River (the Gau0ley River National Recreation Area was excluded due it being a whitewater rafting site).

Participants are expected to self-report their hiking through a mileage log provided by the park. The first 100 participants who have completed the challenge receive a bracelet that commemorates their participation. All participants receive a sticker.

Participant bracelet

The first 100 participants who finished get to wear this bracelet with pride.

While Park Service officials were hopeful to get a few hundred residents to sign up through their social media sites, word of mouth, and local advertising, they never expected what happened next.

They were inundated with participants: 823 , to be exact. But this number is still growing – people are signing everyday!

Campbell explains further, “I think that most of us would’ve been happy if several hundred people said that they would participate in this challenge, so we were pleasantly surprised and really bowled over by how many people we’ve had sign up.”

With the tremendous community participation also came several questions — mostly if pets can participate.

Even though the parks did not allow pets on the trails at the beginning of the challenge, they changed their minds. Now any four-legged companion can join participants during the challenge, as long as they remain on a leash.

In fact, participants are encouraged to register their dog (or other pet) and track their miles, as they are eligible for a prize when they complete the challenge. Five dogs have completed so far, and another 23 are currently registered.

Dog bandana

Four-legged participants get this sporty bandana

--Celebrate Health

Programs like this, while not specifically designed by the National Park Service to promote health, certainly encourage people to be more active. And as I mentioned last week, West Virginia is the leading state for diabetes rates. It stands to reason that residents participating in this program are promoting their own health and taking strides against preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

The National Park Service is doing its part to ensure the community has access to these healthy activities. Not only have they allowed pets, but they have also partnered with other community activity organizations — the YMCA and Active Southern West Virginia. These organizations help lead community walks for the centennial challenge.

Plus, these folks get to enjoy the natural beauty of their area!

Campbell sums this all up well:

“[The 100-mile challenge] is to get people out there — you know, the physical activity of walking, but then also the benefits of being outside in the sunshine and vitamin D and all those types of things. It’s a mood enhancer — all of the reasons that we like to be active.”

New River Gorge

New River Gorge Bridge

If you happen to live in the Fayetteville, West Virginia area, you can find out more information about the centennial program here.

If you would like to find a national park near you, click here. You can find more information about each park’s centennial celebration on their individual websites or check out the NPS centennial page here.

You can also find out what’s going on across the country by searching #NPS100 on all social media platforms.

Like the mentioned parks, many national parks offer free admission. Check the website for rates or call the park to find out.

If you are one of our international readers, simply do a Web search for national parks in your country to find one near you.

Live well,

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily

P.S. Stay tuned this week! We have more exciting stories from the road coming your way. You won’t want to miss this!

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