Senator Wicker encourages Mississippians to ‘Find Your Park’

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall foliage and milder temperatures make this season a wonderful time to spend outdoors with family and friends. We live in a country with spectacular natural resources and a rich history. From woodlands and monuments to seashores and battlefields, more than 400 sites and 84 million acres are included in the National Park System for Americans to discover.

America’s parks are a treasured part of our national identity. The preservation of public parks, wilderness areas, and monuments – and the right of the public to access to those lands – is a proud American tradition that sets us apart from many other countries, where open spaces and wilderness are often locked up in private ownership.

Next year marks the centennial of the National Park Service, which has already launched a new “Find Your Park” campaign to celebrate the milestone. The campaign encourages Americans of all ages to explore and learn about our nation’s public lands and waters. This year’s fourth-graders have an extra special reason to visit: For the 2015-2016 school year, an “Every Kid in a Park” pass gives them free access to all federal sites, such as parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. To learn more, please

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Discovering Our History

Mississippi offers a number of opportunities for families to take part in the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary celebration. The 444-mile Natchez Trace stretching from Natchez to Nashville, for example, is a true remnant of history, with landmarks like Emerald Mound and the Mount Locust Inn. Fort Rosalie, where the French settled in the city of Natchez, is one highlight of the Natchez National Historical Park. Like the National Park Service, Natchez is also celebrating a big milestone next year with the 300th anniversary of its founding.

As for those interested in seeing vibrant wildlife and sandy beaches, they need look no further than the Coast’s barrier islands, which make up part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Meanwhile, history buffs can wander former battlegrounds at the Tupelo National Battlefield and Vicksburg National Military Park. From Pontotoc to Pascagoula, Mississippians can find awe-inspiring scenery and reminders of the past in nearly every corner of the state.

Earlier this year, I received the National Park Heritage Award from the National Parks Conservation Association. The award recognizes the “Champion Hill, Port Gibson, and Raymond Battlefields Addition Act,” which I introduced with Sen. Thad Cochran in 2013. In expanding the Vicksburg National Military Park to include these battlefield sites and historic homes, we can preserve a more complete picture of the Vicksburg campaign for future generations to enjoy. It is our responsibility to ensure that these stories are not lost.

Remembering Medgar Evers and Teddy Roosevelt

This year I have joined Sen. Cochran in an effort to designate the Medgar Wiley Evers Home Museum in Jackson as a National Park Service unit. Our legislation would authorize the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study evaluating the home’s national significance. Companion legislation sponsored by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson has already passed the House of Representatives.

Any mention of national parks cannot overlook the impact of President Theodore Roosevelt, who championed the preservation of our natural resources. His memorable hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi, also inspired today’s stuffed “teddy bear.” A true visionary, Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, doubled the number of national parks, and signed legislation to protect America’s cultural and historic landmarks. His lifelong stewardship of our public lands and waters remains an enduring example to us today.

For more information about the National Park Service’s centennial events, please visit

By Senator Roger Wicker