It’s that amazing time of year when trees leaf out, flowers bloom, and the sunshine beckons us outside. We also all pause to recognize our amazing national parks and the people who care for them through our celebration of National Park Week! This year’s theme, “Your Park Story,” asks visitors to share which place is special to you. The NPS website compiles all the upcoming events planned to celebrate if your schedule permits.

While our family’s schedule this week is consumed with school, music lessons, and after school sports, we had the opportunity just a few weeks ago to celebrate our parks during spring break. We enjoyed visiting two national park sites during our a week-long vacation: Fort Pulaski National Monument in Savannah, Georgia, and Fort Sumter National Historic Park in Charleston, South Carolina.

It has been many years since we’ve explored a new park that is dedicated to America’s history. We avoided visiting cities and more enclosed spaces over the last Taking the Junior Ranger oath.few years and this year, we all were looking forward to something different.

During our trip, I once again was amazed at the thoughtfulness and questions that were prompted by our visit to these national park sites. As we explored both forts, we had discussions about history related to the Civil War, but we also talked about the selection and purpose of forts, the tactics of warfare, and how these historical battles would compare to modern day conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine. The firsthand experiences with place of monumental historical significance are crucial to sparking the desire to keep learning about our nation’s history.

Of course, no trip to a national park is complete without a Junior Ranger Activity Book. Many thanks to Jan the Park Ranger for issuing the Fort Pulaski Junior Ranger badge! It was a good thing we received that book because when we arrived a few days later at Fort Sumter, we discovered they had run out of activity books. Spring break crowds are no joke. With our recently earned badge though, the park ranger on duty engaged in a wonderful discussion about Fort Sumter with my son. Thanks to a great conversation and eager to learn more, my son was able to earn another badge nonetheless.

Naturally, we had to have some unstructured time after all the learning, so a trip to A sand fort modeled after Fort Pulaski.the beach was in order. Even though they’re getting older, I’m happy to see that my children are still children and will learn through play. Their favorite beach activity? Building a sand fort modeled after those we had just seen! No surprise – the ocean quickly overtook the fortifications.

We had a great spring break adventure. We not only made some incredible family memories, we learned a lot too. National parks have the unique ability to allow us to situate ourselves in the story of our country and to take a walk through history. Most importantly, the incredible NPS employees we met helped us make connections between the past and the present.

National Park Week is a great time to celebrate not just our parks, but our NPS employees. Our parks remain understaffed (and underfunded) as visitation continues to rise. In addition to protecting park resources, the interpreters, naturalists, maintenance employees, law enforcement rangers, and resource specialists (and so many more) also help us to truly understand and connect with these special places

This week, the Coalition continues to meet with Congressional representatives to advocate for more funding, more staffing, and better housing for our NPS employees. We know that our most precious resources are our human resources.

So we hope you can take a moment this week to not only visit a national park but interact with a park ranger or two. These rangers truly make a difference.

Happy National Park Week!