National Park historian visits SFA

The National Park Service is gearing up to celebrate its 100th year -- next year. Attention to the next 100 years is the focus of a former National Park Service chief historian, who is spending a week at SFA.

Dr. Dwight Pitcaithley has visited over half of the 408 national parks established during the last 100 years. So does he have a favorite?

"I can't answer that," Pitcaithley said. "How do you pick? How do you pick?"

Difficult because the parks are all so different and worthy in their own right.  The historian knows the value of each park, but also recognizes the worth of community-based recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs

"People do think of Yellowstone, Big Bend, The Grand Canyon and they don't think as much and aren't as much aware of the programs called Preservation Community Programs that are designed for improving quality of life outside of parks," Pitcaithley said.

The New Mexico native is quite impressed with East Texas participation in the preservation programs. In Nacogdoches County there are 23 entries on the National Register of Historic Place.

"Which is this nation's list of places worthy of preservation," Pitcaithley said. "Within that there are five in Nacogdoches that are districts comprising of 231 buildings, so Nacogdoches has really paid attention to its preservation effort."

All this week the guest professor from New Mexico State University is sharing knowledge about park history, management, jobs and even its food with numerous classes.

Along the way he's pushing Centennial events. Find Your Park is a social media contest for the top 100 personal national park stories.

East Texans are also encouraged to visit national park sites in 2016, especially if you happen to know a fourth grader. 

"That if you have a child in the fourth grade you can get an annual pass to all the parks for that child," Pitcaithley said. "The park service wants to grow a new generation of park supporters."

Pitcaithley knows the support from Americans could lead to a successful second century of stewardship for America's national parks and for communities across the nation.

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