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Interview with NPCA's Theresa Pierno

In advance of her lecture here in Baltimore on May 18th, hear from the National Parks Conservation Association's CEO, Theresa Pierno, about the importance of connecting with nature! 

Published May 12, 2016


What was the first national park you visited and what stuck with you about that experience?
Growing up outside Philadelphia, the first national park sites that I visited were Valley Forge National Historical Park and Gettysburg National Military Park. When I was eight years old, I went with my family to Shenandoah National Park. I remember Skyline Drive, the mountains and the views that went for miles and miles. That trip really stuck with me. 

great falls
Photo via Flickr

The year is the Park Service’s 100th birthday! How is NPCA celebrating this incredible milestone?
The centennial of the National Park Service has been such an exciting time for the parks community. Our national parks are seeing a record number of visits, media outlets are devoting more coverage to them and we are seeing a renewed enthusiasm by those who want to speak up for them. On the heels of the National Park Service’s launch of the Find Your Park initiative, encouraging people to go out and explore our more than 400 national parks, NPCA launched our Find Your Voice initiative. We are encouraging people to not only visit our parks but also to speak up for them, whether it’s writing a letter to your members of Congress or taking part in one of our more than 100 outreach activities this year. 

What response have you seen to the Find Your Voice initiative?
More than 18,000 people from all 50 states have joined a Find Your Voice event and logged more than 35,000 volunteer hours to restore habitat and trails or join us to paddle, hike, bike, and experience a national park. Each participant learns about that park and how to get involved in protecting it. For more than half of the people we engage, it’s their first time visiting a national park. During our events, we encourage participants to take an action to protect the park, whether it’s signing a petition or a postcard, or making calls to elected officials. 

arches national park
Photo via Flickr.

What do you think people gain from spending time in nature?
There have been many studies done that show both the physical and mental benefits of spending time outdoors, including for children and returning veterans. But beyond the studies, I know you’ll agree that spending time in nature is such a personal experience, and that experience differs for each of us. For me, it is a chance to connect with my family, and see the world through my grandchildren’s eyes. I also relish the time I’m out on my boat and listen to the water lap as I sail along on the Chesapeake Bay. To say these moments are rejuvenating is an understatement. 

grand teton
Photo via Flickr.

What new national parks would you like to see created in the future?
There are so many places that deserve to be protected and have their stories told. One of the biggest campaigns we are working on right now is creating a national park for Stonewall in New York City – the site that played a pivotal role in our nation’s continuing struggle for equal rights for all Americans. 

Two-thirds of America’s more than 400 national park sites represent and protect significant cultural and historic stories. Women’s Rights National Historical Park tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY. Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail tells the story of the African-American rights movement. It’s time to have a national park site that tells the story of the LGBT rights movement. The National Park Service supports this initiative, so we remain hopeful it will become a park soon. 

Photo via Flickr.

What can people who want to help do to support our national parks?
There are so many ways to help our national parks! First and foremost, I encourage each of you to become a member of NPCA by visiting our website. All are welcome to get involved or volunteer with NPCA during the National Park Service’s centennial year and in the years to come, especially at our fall event at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore as a part of our partnership with Aquarium Conservation Team! 

To reserve your seats for Theresa's FREE lecture at the Aquarium on May 18th, click here

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