The Order of the Arrow salutes 100 years of the National Park Service

 

"There is nothing so American as our national parks." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the creation of the National Park Service. Today, having reached 100 years old, the National Parks Service (NPS) manages more than 400 sites across all fifty states and US territories. Throughout the combined history of NPS and the Order of the Arrow (OA), there have been several joint projects to benefit and enrich the American people who visit the parks.

Collaborations between OA and NPS stretch back decades. The Marnoc Lodge of the Great Trail Council in Akron, OH began work in the 1960s on the Cuyahoga Valley Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The present day Lodge Adviser Robert Saffle said, "The 13.1 mile trail received approval by the Activities Section of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America on October 6, 1966 and received approval from the National Park Service in May of 1967. The Lodge has been responsible for the care and maintenance of this trail which has been extensively used by Scouts and the general public ever since." Saffle added, "The lodge provides cheerful service to both Camp Manatoc and Camp Butler," which are inside the national park. What began as an idea for a trail in 1966 has led to fifty years of OA service to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The OA committed unprecedented amounts of service hours assisting the National Parks through the SummitCorps event in 2011. SummitCorps, appropriately named for its proximity to the brand new Summit Bechtel Reserve (SBR) in West Virginia, took place in the New River Gorge National River. Scott Beckett, co-chairman for the event, described SummitCorps as, "The national OA’s first act of service to the area of the new SBR. For four weeks, we took 400-500 people per week to build what would become Arrowhead Trail." The completed project is over twelve miles of public access mountain bike trail. The trails have become a popular destination for mountain bikers in West Virginia and continue to be utilized today.

The end result of SummitCorps was not only the physical trail system but a new forged relationship between the OA and the NPS. Matt Walker, the incident commander for week four, described his favorite part of the project as, "working with the Arrowmen and the NPS." Walker noted, "This is the truest servant leadership we perform, by volunteering our time to work on mountain biking trails, crushing rocks with sledgehammers, moving boulders and digging up trees." This relationship continues today through the OA Summit Experience (OASE) program offered through OA High Adventure (OAHA). Each summer, participants spend their time volunteering and building trails around the New River Gorge National River following in the footsteps of all SummitCorps participants before them. The OASE program continues the legacy of OA service in southern West Virginia.

The OAHA program will be taking on a new challenge in the summer of 2017. The OA Ocean Adventure (OAOA) program will begin providing service at the Dry Tortugas National Park in South Florida. Nick Digirolamo said, "This project is an exciting extension of [the NPS] relationship that gives the OA another opportunity to serve not just Scouting, but the general public and its historic resources." The Dry Tortugas will continue the OA and NPS relationship started in West Virginia.

In addition to the national projects in West Virginia and Florida, lodges across the nation work with the NPS on local projects. Lo La'Qam Geela Lodge of the Crater Lake Council held a service day this August at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The project was conducted to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the NPS. Egwa Tawa Dee Lodge of the Atlanta Area Council coordinates with the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia and provides service each October. Both projects assist the park management with trail construction and maintenance.

The NPS has limited resources to maintain trails and the trail construction experience found within the OA is an excellent resource we can help to provide. Thank you NPS for preserving this nation's hidden beauties for the last one hundred years and the OA looks forward to our continued partnership to benefit the general public as they visit the national parks.

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