Did you know that it’s been 100 years since Congress created the National Park Service (NPS)? On August 25, 1916, NPS was established to preserve the ecological and historical integrity of some of America’s most beautiful terrain while making them available and accessible for the public to enjoy.
As this important centennial kicks off with a second century of recreation, conservation and historical preservation, some of the National Parks are celebrating in big ways. There are over 390 parks in the United States with 11 of those being in Florida, and St. Johns County boasting two including Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in downtown and Fort Matanzas National Monument just north of Marineland.
“When planning started for the Centennial, Director Jon Jarvis charged each of us with one goal: ‘Connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates,’” explains Jill Leverett, volunteer coordinator for Castillo de San Marcos. “It’s exciting to be thinking about how to make that connection with the thousands of young people who visit our parks every year.”
Known by the locals simply as “The Fort,” Castillo de San Marcos is nearly 350 years old. Construction of the coquina structure began in 1672 by the Spanish to protect their interests in La Florida. The stone for the Castillo was quarried on nearby Anastasia Island and it is the only surviving 17th century military construction in the country and the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.
The other National Park in St. Augustine is Fort Matanzas. Constructed between 1740 and 1742, Fort Matanzas was build by the Spanish to control Matanzas Inlet, which was considered the “backdoor” to St. Augustine. A majority of the fort’s stone is original, although extensive restoration has been performed through the years, as well as the addition of a permanent staircase to replace the soldier’s ladder.
“It’s very exciting to be part of an agency that has such a long history of protecting so many diverse yet equally important places,” says Leverett, who has been with the National Park Service since 2008. “Hopefully, the groundwork we lay during our centennial year will pave the way for another hundred years of conservation and enjoyment.”
Centennial Events to Mark on Your Calendar:
Castillo by Candlelight: Your National Parks
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Celebrate the upcoming Centennial of the National Park Service with a special visit to Castillo de San Marcos. As we mark National Park Week, visit the Castillo in the evening to explore the Castillo and the history of your national parks. Entry time for this special ticketed event are available for 6:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are FREE, and each entry time will have limited capacity. Advance tickets are available two weeks prior to event. Reserve tickets by calling 904-829-6506 ext. 232 or stopping by the Castillo ticket booth. Tickets are limited, so advance reservations are recommended.
Fridays, May 20, June 17, July 15, August 19, and September 16
As an additional way to commemorate the National Park Service Centennial and provide more opportunities to “Find Your Park,” Castillo de San Marcos NM will extend its hours on one Friday per month, May – September. Visit the Castillo from 5 – 7 p.m. to informally explore the history and importance of this fortress. Regular entrance fees apply.
Happy Birthday National Park Service!
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Celebrate the 100th Birthday of the National Park Service with a visit to the Castillo. FREE entrance to the Castillo in recognition of the National Park Service Centennial. The National Park Service is also partnering with the St. Johns County Cultural Council and the Lightner Museum for a special art exhibit titled “Americas Parks” to celebrate this milestone birthday. The exhibit will run from June 8 to August 31 at the Lightner Museum.
Featured Image via NPS Photo