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National Park Trust and Air Force Launch New Program Encouraging Military Families to Visit Parks and Public Lands





March 15, 2018
Contact: Samantha Jones, samantha@parktrust.org 301-279-7275 x 21


National Park Trust and Air Force Launch New Program Encouraging Military Families to Visit Parks and Public Lands

Rockville, MD – National Park Trust (NPT) is pleased to announce its partnership with the Air Force Services Activity (AFSVA) — with support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy — to launch the Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge. The program’s goal is to encourage military families across the country to visit and enjoy America’s parks, public lands and waters.

The Buddy Bison Great Outdoors Challenge will connect families with local, state and national parks using NPT’s mascot, Buddy Bison and other NPT educational resources. Families will receive a Buddy Bison (a stuffed bison mascot) and a Buddy Bison passport or bingo card and are encouraged to collect stamps at Buddy Bison Stops found on Air Force installations and at parks in and around each base community.

“We are delighted to bring the benefits of our Buddy Bison Program to Air Force installations to encourage families to discover the many benefits of our country’s parks and public lands,” added Grace Lee, executive director of NPT.

“We are excited to partner with the National Park Trust to promote the use of park resources in our military families’ communities,” said Anthony Alcala, recreation specialist with AFSVA’s Child and Youth Programs.

The program will be piloted at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; Hurlburt Field, Florida; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; Hill AFB, Utah; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Peterson AFB, Colorado; and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.

“This partnership gives our Air Force families opportunities to explore the great outdoors, strengthen family bonds and have fun while engaging in healthy activities,” said Fernando Brown, recreation specialist with AFSVA’s Outdoor Recreation.

Although every Air Force installation in the U.S. won’t currently be enrolled in the Buddy Bison program, all can participate in NPT’s Kids to Parks Day, held the third Saturday of May each year. This national day of outdoor play encourages exploring outdoor recreation, learning about science, technology, engineering and math; and embracing park stewardship, according to NPT’s web site.


NPT’s mission is preserving parks today; creating park stewards for tomorrow. In the 35 years since NPT was established, the non-profit organization has completed more than 60 land acquisition, restoration, and mitigation projects in 30 states, 1 U.S. Territory and Washington, D.C. including 48 National Park Service projects. In 2009, NPT launched its nationally recognized Buddy Bison Programs which currently supports more than 200 Title I schools across the country. Since 2011, NPT has organized Kids to Parks Day, an annual national celebration of America’s parks hosted on the third Saturday in May.

Volunteer Season in Full Bloom

Our National Parks help protect America’s native plants and animals. Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Tigran Nahabedian volunteers at Channel Islands National Park in Ventura, CA, and recently helped restore Anacapa Island with classmates from the Ojai Valley School (Ojai, CA). Tigran and his fellow students helped remove the invasive red-flowered iceplant from the Island, and replanted affected areas with native plant species. Read about Tigran’s restoration project below: 

It is the mission of the National Park Service around the country to preserve, protect, and maintain our national treasures. Our national parks are as American as our flag, just consider Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, Fort McHenry and the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the Liberty Bell, Mt. Denali, and the beautiful Yosemite Valley. This makes restoring native plants and wildlife a high priority and everyone’s responsibility, especially this generation’s.

Reintroducing native plants helps native animals find food and shelter, which will in turn increase the variety and number of animals you will see.  That is why Buddy Bison and I decided to go to Channel Islands National Park, to help their restoration efforts there.

Buddy Bison with red-flowered iceplant.

Buddy Bison and I joined with Ojai Valley School (OVS) as part of NEEF’s Hands on the Land program on an Island Packers boat across the Santa Barbara Channel, heading straight for

Anacapa Island. Our mission was to remove invasive iceplant, to make room for native plants. Anacapa Island is an essential nesting ground for seabirds.  Before Channel Islands National Park was established, Anacapa Island was owned by the Coast Guard, who built a lighthouse to make sure passing ships didn’t crash into the island. They also planted iceplant, a plant from South Africa, to help with landscaping and erosion control. Sadly, it did the opposite and spread around the island. It also absorbed a high amount of water needed by native plants; and it made the surrounding soil saltier, making it even harder for native plants to grow. Those are some of the reasons why Buddy Bison and I wanted to help the Park remove iceplant from Anacapa.

As soon as we reached the island, a few park volunteers, OVS students, Buddy Bison, and I were led to the area where we would be working. It was filled with many large patches of iceplant. After removing the patches of iceplant, we prepared for the next step, reintroducing the native plants.

Removing iceplant is a good thing for the ecosystem, but it leaves nothing to hold the soil down, and that is why Channel Islands National Park installed a greenhouse on the island specifically for the purpose of growing native plants. This means that the native plant seedlings will have a safe place to grow that is right near the areas where work needs to be done.

A few months later, on another OVS Hands on the Land trip, Buddy Bison and I hiked up to the greenhouse and walked inside. The entire room was filled with plant seedlings waiting to be planted into the ground. We all grabbed the potted seedlings and walked in the rain to the plot where we were working. We then took the seedlings out of the pots and placed them each in their own spots. After that, it was time to go on the boat—Buddy Bison and I slowly watched the seedlings we planted get smaller and smaller in the distance. Even though we got wet and muddy, we had a great time. 

Tigran (on left), Buddy Bison, and a friend on Anacapa Island

The following year on a Channel Islands Park Foundation trip, my good friend Linda Mohammad from National Park Geek, some other volunteers, California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES) staff, Buddy Bison, and I helped plant more seedlings. Many of the plants in the plot were not seedlings anymore; the whole area had grown and was looking quite healthy.

On another OVS trip, we got to work on a different island, Santa Cruz Island. This time, we were removing invasive cheese weed, which was introduced during the island’s ranching history. My group did this over a period of two days on a multi-day camping trip.

There are many challenges the national parks are facing, including: differed maintenance, an insufficient amount of staff, and the difficulty of protecting native species. Buddy Bison and I are very optimistic about the future. There isn’t a challenge in our national parks that we can’t fix.  We need your help. If you love the parks, I encourage you to find a little time to volunteer and get involved: https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm

National Park Trust and Blue Star Families Announce New Partnership

National Park Trust Logo




February 28, 2018

Contact: Olwen Pongrace
Bana Miller

National Park Trust and Blue Star Families Announce New Partnership

WASHINGTON, DCNational Park Trust (NPT) and Blue Star Families are pleased to announce a new partnership designed to create family-friendly park events for military families across the United States in commemoration of Kids to Parks Day, held annually the third Saturday in May. This year, Kids to Parks Day will be May 19, 2018, coinciding with Armed Forces Day 2018.

Photo courtesy of Blue Star Families.

“We are thrilled to work with Blue Star Families to create family-friendly park experiences that feature STEM and history education as well as outdoor recreation activities,” said Grace Lee, executive director of National Park Trust. “Our wish is for military families to actively experience parks and the rich stories of our country that they preserve, and create lasting family memories.”

Kids to Parks Day is a nationwide day of celebration of local, state and national parks. NPT engages kids, families, teachers, and elected officials with their local public lands. NPT will provide $500 grants for 16 Blue Star Families events that emphasize the importance of connecting with the great outdoors. Last year, over a million families attended Kids to Parks Day events in all 50 states. NPT expects that number to increase in 2018. Over 200 towns and cities have already signed proclamations of support and have committed to hosting park events. NPT expects that number to grow to 500.

“Working with National Park Trust, Blue Star Families is creating special opportunities for military families to enjoy, learn, and connect with the outdoor treasures their service members protect every day,” said Suzi Guardia, Senior Advisor for Neighbor Engagement at Blue Star Families. “Parks are places where community is built, where families can lessen the stress of the military lifestyle, and where memories are made. We are so grateful to our Blue Star Neighbor for making these events possible.”


Blue Star Families builds communities that support military families by connecting research and data to programs and solutions, including career development tools, local community events for families, and caregiver support. Since its inception in 2009, Blue Star Families has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and served more than 1.5 million military family members. With Blue Star Families, military families can find answers to their challenges anywhere they are. For more information, visit bluestarfam.org.

For more information on National Park Trust, visit www.parktrust.org and follow National Park Trust on social media for updates on other projects (@NationalParkTrust). #KidstoParks

General: (301) 279-7275 • Email: opongrace@thorpesearl.com
National Park Trust • 401 E Jefferson Street #207 • Rockville, MD 20850

Healing Images Brings the Beauty of our Parks into Hospitals

Some of the finest landscape photographers in America have joined together to create a unique collection of photographic art. More than 3,000 colorful images are in this online gallery, viewable at www.HealingImages.org. These photographs have been specifically chosen to promote healing, to nurture patients and their caregivers. The two partners who manage this national nonprofit are founder Dewitt Jones and Wayne Hill, who has close ties to the National Park Trust.

Launched more than six years ago, their vision is simple yet powerful: top photographers in America donate the use of their superb photographs, so the enlarged art may be offered exclusively to hospitals at way below market cost. Their goal is to put healthcare walls to work, providing color and connection with the outdoors – helping patients, caregivers, and visitors.

John Rollins, an NPT board member, opened an important door for Healing Images with Medstar hospitals: “The extraordinary art from Healing Images has helped us make our hospital environment an integral part of healing care. Their art brightens the mood not only of our patients and visitors but our dedicated staff as well. Every healthcare facility could benefit from their wonderful work. Healing Images is a game changer.” – Dr. Richard Goldberg, President – Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Over 2,000 Healing Images have been installed in more than fifty hospitals around America, from Virginia to Hawaii. These photographs of nature deliver continuing color and cheer, nurturing patients and connecting staff with these “happy places”. Their art is a powerful tribute to our parks. HealingImages.org is making a strategic difference in hospitals: by putting their walls to work using the healing influence of nature.

Buddy Bison Students Kick Start their Year with Parks

Our Buddy Bison Schools in California “set sail” last month with field trips to learn about their state’s history on the sea. Pennycook Elementary’s 30 4th graders visited San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where they explored two historic ships and discovered the harbor’s marine life.

On the other side of the bay, 100 4th graders from Vargas Elementary journeyed to the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park and the SS Red Oak Victory. Each student received their Every Kid in a Park pass too. Special thanks to Penny and Adrian Bellamy for sponsoring both of these Buddy Bison Schools this year and for helping them to foster a love for the great outdoors.



Meanwhile, on the East Coast, 18 sixth-grade students from the Washington School for Girls (DC) ventured out to the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium in January. They loved exploring the wonders of outer space (through the National Park Service’s only planetarium) and hiking along the wooded trails. A special thanks to Mike and Carol Steed for sponsoring this Buddy Bison school for the past 6 years.

Valuing Parks in Our Culture

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Audrey Elliott has been busy! Not only did she visit Fort Frederica National Monument in St. Simons Island, GA but she also represented her love of parks (and Buddy Bison) at her school’s family culture night! Read below for her story:

Hey! It’s Audrey and recently I participated in cultural night at my school. Cultural night is where you can go and see [different aspects of cultures], like dances, for different countries. I was allowed to present about the importance of State and National Parks. I put together a display board showing some of the things I do in parks. One of the more fun things was having a drawing to give away a Buddy Bison.

Also,in December, my family made a stop in St. Simons Island, Georgia to visit Fort Frederica National Monument. It was a British Fort built in the mid 1700’s. I was able to see the ruins of the buildings that were there a long time ago. Seeing the cannons was really neat. There were also a few reenactors there who were friendly and told me about the clothes they would wore during those days. I was able work on several Junior Ranger Programs. They had one for their park plus the Underwater Explorer and the Archaeology Junior Ranger progams. When you work on all three you can receive the Fort Frederica Master Junior Ranger. Fort Frederica is a pretty park that has trees with spanish moss. I would suggest that you stop by and explore this awesome park!

Farewell my BBF’s [Buddy Bison Friends]. Bye!

2017 Annual Impact Report

Take a look at all we accomplished together last year in our new Annual Impact Report.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (AK)

The first project for the new National Park Trust was to purchase a five-acre inholding in the interior of the park, at the headwaters of the Alatna River. The parcel was in federally designated wilderness, which makes up over 7 million acres of the 7.5 million-acre national park. There were two cabins and a marked helicopter landing area on the acreage. NPT bought the property, and under an arrangement with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the cabins and landing area were removed. The Center returned the land to a state compatible with wilderness, and the property was transferred into the ownership of the National Park Service afterward.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park (GA)

This month, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park Act was signed into law which changed the designation of this National Park Service (NPS) unit from a national historic site to a national historic park. Did you know that in 1996 NPT donated three parcels of land to benefit the park?

In 1996 NPT worked with NPS to purchase three parcels of privately held land to be added to the park. NPS removed dilapidated buildings on the properties which made it possible to create a “welcoming gateway” for visitors to the park. The purchase also made construction of better parking facilities and consequently better access to the park possible.

In addition, thanks to support from the Georgia-Pacific Foundation, M. Agnes Jones Elementary has been a part of the Buddy Bison School Program (BBSP) for 4 years. BBSP provided opportunities for third graders from M. Agnes Jones to visit this important historic site. These students learned not only about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but also that our national parks chronicle the story of our country and thus are worthy of protection and preservation.

And The Buddy Goes To…

It’s award season! We all know about the Emmys, the Oscars and the Tonys. This month, NPT surprised Chelsea Vines from M. Agnes Jones Elementary with The Buddy Award our National Educator Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship.

Every year we honor an extraordinary environmental education leader. Chelsea has played an important lead role in the implementation of the Buddy Bison Program at her school, engaging their 3rd-grade students with local parks and the great outdoors. She uses parks to enhance the classroom curricula and creates priceless memories for her students at the same time. Congratulations Chelsea!

M. Agnes Jones has been a Buddy Bison School for 4 years. During this time, students have experienced the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Sweetwater Creek State Park, MLK National Historic Park, Serenbe Farms, and the Fernbank and Tellus Museums. Agnes Jones is sponsored by the Georgia-Pacific Foundation which underwrites all of these experiential adventures. Principal Margul Woolfolk, Curley Dossman, head of the foundation and Beverly Ferguson, Senior Director of Community Affairs at Georgia-Pacific helped us plan for this surprise presentation to honor Chelsea. And boy was she surprised!

Thank you Chelsea and M. Agnes Jones Elementary School for leading by example and showing your students how beneficial and great the outdoors really are!

Knob Creek Farm

Acquiring land can be, at times a lengthy process. In 1996, a non-profit group got in touch with NPT about helping acquire an important piece of land in the life of President Abraham Lincoln. It was 228-acre Knob Creek Farm, where Lincoln spent his boyhood years from 1811 to 1816. It was the place he said he had the “earliest remembrance” of his life. The land, once acquired, would be donated to the National Park Service to become a part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. The land was 10 miles from the birthplace site, so an act of Congress was needed to authorize it as national parkland, and part of the Lincoln birthplace park. NPT worked with the owners of the farm from 1996 until 2000, when negotiations to buy the property were finalized.

While NPT was working with owners of the farm, a parallel effort was underway to establish legislation to authorize this new addition to the National Park Service; the bill to add it was passed in 1998. NPT funded a $10,000 grant to Preservation of Lincoln’s Kentucky Heritage, Inc. in 2000 to hold the property while they raised the remaining money to meet the approximate $1 million price tag. In 2001, NPT donated the remaining $10,000 to meet the purchase price and cover administrative costs. The National Park Service accepted ownership of Knob Creek Farm in 2002, as part of Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

Citizen Scientist Sarah

Citizen science projects let anyone become a scientist for a day! In 2017, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen volunteered at the Maurice River (NJ), which is a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Sarah helped National Park Service staff and local scientists collected dragonfly larvae for an ongoing national project that investigates mercury levels in dragonflies. Read more about Sarah’s contributions below:

One of my favorite things about being a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador is volunteering to help in different parks.  One of the great places that I have gotten to volunteer at is the Maurice Wild and Scenic River here in New Jersey. A project that I got to help with was a citizen science project collecting dragonfly larvae for a National Park Service nationwide study. The group that I volunteered with is called the Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. They work with the National Park Service to help protect the Maurice River and the places around it.

My favorite part of volunteering with the dragonfly sampling project was getting to paddle a canoe out on the river and using nets to collect dragonfly larvae. Sometimes the larvae were hard to find since they are really well camouflaged! I also helped collect dragonfly larvae from around the water plants near the edge of the water. After we collected the larvae, we brought them back to the shore and put them into tubs of water. While the larvae were in the tubs, we had to identify what type of dragonfly larvae they were. This was a little difficult, but we had pictures to help out. The larvae also need to be a certain size to be sent for mercury testing, so we had to use rulers to measure them. We then had to label a bag for each dragonfly larvae so that it could be sent to a lab. The dragonfly that I helped collect were sent to a lab to be tested for mercury. The mercury builds up in different animals and is then passed along the food chain. I learned that mercury can be harmful to all different types of wildlife, which is why the National Park Service is doing this research project. There are different parks all across the United States that collect dragonfly larvae for this project.  

The Maurice River is a beautiful place to visit, and It was really interesting learning about different types of dragonflies. I also saw lots of other wildlife, like turtles, monarch butterflies, fish, and birds.  I had a great time, and I’m really looking forward to volunteering again next year!

Follow Sarah’s adventures on social media @jrrangersarah.

Preserving Olympic National Park

*Update (January 2018): In December 2017, the final sale went through and the National Park Service took possession of the property; it is now part of Olympic National Park.*

As we begin the second century of the National Park Service, NPT is setting our sights on the preservation of Lake Quinault in Olympic National Park (WA) – a park preservation project of just under 0.5 acres. Although small in size, it is big in ecological significance.

The parcel is surrounded on three sides by Olympic National Park and Forest. It is the only parcel in that block that does not belong to the National Park Service. The acquisition will keep it in its natural state by preventing further development along that portion of the stream and it will protect water quality for the Quinault River.  The lake and river system support populations of sockeye, chum and Chinook salmon as well as steelhead, bull and Dolly Varden trout. The Quinault National Fish Hatchery, downstream from the lake, raises salmon and steelhead which populate the river. All deserve protection. Click here to learn more about this project.

Uplifting Moments of 2017

Thanks to our work together, 2017 was a terrific year! We couldn’t have done it without people like you.

Check out all we were able to accomplish in 2017!

One small step for Buddy, one great leap for bisonkind

By: Tigran Nahabedian (Photos courtesy of Ojai Valley School)

Buddy “hangs” out with an Ojai Valley middle schooler as he gets ready to launch!

When people think of bison they think of rolling hills and grassy plains, or perhaps even the bison on the National Park Service arrowhead. There is one bison, though, that is WAY different. This bison meets with members of Congress and Cabinet Secretaries, travels through national parks and historical sites, and has even grazed in the White House garden. He is also an extreme athlete whether he’s rock climbing, diving with world famous oceanographers, or pushing new heights.

On May 11, 2017 at 6:53 am PST, Buddy Bison entered his capsule and secured his place in history as the first bison in near space. Mission control for this launch was Ojai Valley School, led by a fantastic team of middle school students under the supervision of Mr. Mike Mahon, assistant head of school.

Launching Buddy Bison into space was a natural fit for Ojai Valley School (OVS) because community service and outdoor and STEM education are key principles of student life at OVS.  Mike Mahon said, “We all love outdoors and we all love science.”

This was the third year anniversary launch of Project X at Ojai Valley School, a program where students launch camera equipped capsules with the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration and missile command at Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

This year broke all records; Buddy hit a record height of over 100,000 feet and had magnificent views of Channel Islands National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Los Padres National Forest, the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, and Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The students behind this historic launch were Eugene, Tajmana, Zachary, Tim, Max, Josh, Jenny, Gao, Hayden, Vicky, Adam, and Grace, all students from 6th to 8th grade. The students showed great enthusiasm and were almost without words as the capsule raced into near space. I am pleased to report the mission was a complete success. Buddy Bison had a perfect touchdown and was greeted by the OVS recovery team. The students gave him a hero’s welcome as he returned to campus.

I am grateful I was able to report on this launch and hope to join the Project X team in 2018.

#WayBackWednesday: President Lincoln Under Fire!

#WayBackWednesday: President Lincoln Under Fire! A Park Preservation Project of Historical Significance

The national parks protect and preserve what is special, significant and irreplaceable to the American people. NPT supports the National Park Service by acquiring lands to be donated to the parks and by inspiring children to become future stewards of parks and green space.

In 2004, NPT worked on a project that preserved a piece of a Civil War battlefield and benefitted the historic Brightwood neighborhood in the Fort Stevens section of Washington, D.C.’s well known Rock Creek Park.

A portion of the battlefield where Union troops gathered was approved for construction of a 13-townhouse development, which would have changed the character of the neighborhood and eliminated the preservation of a piece of history. NPT worked to acquire the property and transfer it to become part of Rock Creek Park with the support of the neighborhood and the National Park Service.

The Civil War battle at the fort was notable for several reasons. Seasoned soldiers at the fort turned away an attack on the nation’s capital by Confederate General Jubal Early. And President Abraham Lincoln, who went to see the battle, became the only president in history to come under fire, when Confederate sharpshooters shot at him as he watched the fighting.  Acquisition of the property, and transfer to the National Park Service, helped preserve an important historical landmark, as well as fulfilling the local community’s desire to maintain their neighborhood as a cultural and historical heritage area.

For information on all of NPT’s completed park preservation projects, read more here.

Paddle Up! Buddy Bison Kids Canoe the Rivers of D.C. and Baltimore

Can you canoe? Our students in the Buddy Bison School Program sure can!  Nine different D.C. and Maryland Buddy Bison Schools took part in this year’s Canoemobile program, a partnership between NPT and Wilderness Inquiry (WI). Our friends from WI drove down from Minnesota with their 24-foot voyageur canoes so we could explore our local waterways.

We started our adventure paddling in Baltimore, MD along the Patapsco River with students from St. Ignatius Loyola Academy and the Mount Washington School. Next, I met with students from Beacon Heights Elementary School, West Education Campus and Neval Thomas Elementary School at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, where we canoed on the Anacostia River! Later in the week, students from Patterson Elementary School paddled along a different section of the Anacostia River, in Washington, DC at Anacostia Park. It was amazing to see how the river changes as you travel along different stretches of its length.

Students from Washington School for Girls and Washington Jesuit Academy launched canoes from the Thompson Boat Center on the Potomac River. This site was very special because we could see some of the monuments on the National Mall from the river! Later in the week, 4th graders from EW Stokes Communtiy Freedom PCS enjoyed a special program from The North Face and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids at the boathouse. I helped hand out their Every Kid in a Park passes so they could visit  any federal public land for free! A radio crew from WTOP came out and covered this wonderful event.

We want to give a big thank you to our partners who helped lead lessons in environmental education on land this week. Park Rangers from the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Izaak Walton League, the D.C. Science Booster Club, and the National Park Conservation Association all came out to teach. Together, they helped us uncover what animals and plants call our watershed home. Whether on land or on the water, the learning and adventure never stops!

A special thanks to our generous sponsors of these schools who made this week of programming possible: The North Face, Clark Construction, DecisionPoint, MCS Incorporated, the Steed Family, the U.S. Forest Service, and The Wyss Foundation.

Buddy Bison

A Historic Halloween with Student Ambassador Audrey in North Carolina

Our newest student ambassador Audrey had a howling good Halloween this year. Check out the full story from her visit to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park below.

“Hi my name is Audrey Elliott and I would like to start by saying I am honored to be chosen as the 3rd Buddy Bison Student Ambassador because there are so many other kids that could have been chosen.

I have been very lucky the past month or so to visit a few National Park sites. I have been able to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway and Kings Mountain National Military Park.

My favorite was at the end of October to go ‘Trick or Treating’ with my friends at a National Park Site.  I put Trick or Treating in quote marks because it was not really Halloween – it was where you could go and hear true stories from a long time ago, dress up and get some candy! (I dressed up like a fox).

I visited Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina. The park was hosting ‘Historic Hallows and Battlefield Boos.’ I visited with my parents and their friends along with their boys who were dressed as Darth Vader and Batman.  While there we were able to hear stories from the characters who told us about what was happening with their families at the time of the battle.  We heard about families who were looking for family members and nurses who treated wounded soldiers.  As we walked along the trail we stopped to see zombie soldiers and ended the trail with a spooky story about a soldier who had survived the battle and carried around a piece of his skull.

Earlier this year I visited Guilford Courthouse on their Junior Ranger Day where I completed their Junior Ranger Program and earned a Junior Ranger Badge.  They even were showing how people would dance at a big party during colonial days!

Junior Ranger Days and events like Historic Hallows and Battlefield Boos are a great way to encourage kids to be in parks.  I hope the next time you go to a park you have a lot of fun!”

Thanks Audrey for this terrific photo and spooky story. We look forward to reading about your park adventures in the future!

Introducing our newest Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Audrey Elliott!

Introducing our newest Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Audrey Elliott! Audrey is a fourth grader and lives in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. She loves learning about and exploring North Carolina State Parks, national parks, and other public lands.

When she was 5 years old, Audrey started visiting parks and then she earned a Jr. Ranger Badge for participating in a trash clean-up competition. What a great, young park steward! She also completed her first National Park Service Junior Ranger program at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Flatrock, NC).

Audrey plans to “learn, explore and protect” as she discovers new parks. Follow her on social media to see where she and #BuddyBison (https://twitter.com/JrRangerAudrey & https://www.instagram.com/jrrangeraudrey/) are traveling.

Stay tuned for more Buddy Bison Student Ambassador stories featuring Audrey!

Fund Your School’s Kids to Parks Day Trip

National Park Trust (NPT)  invites students across the country to participate in the 8th annual Kids to Parks Day, a nationwide grassroots movement to celebrate America’s Parks and public lands.

In honor of this day, NPT is once again hosting the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest to help educators engage their students with their local parks. Opening October 1, 2017this national contest is open to all Title I schools in the United States (grades pre-K through 12). Classes can receive funding for a KTP event at a park or public land/waterway in their community. Students must research and write the proposal themselves, although we encourage teachers to provide support and feedback! Your entries should explain how your experience will promote education, health and wellness, and park stewardship. NPT will award park grants up to $1,000 to winning entries. We encourage schools to implement their KTP event during the month of May 2017 but exceptions can be made based on school schedules.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, February 1, 2018. Winners will be announced Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

Click here to go to our brand new website! You can learn more about the contest, download the entry form, and watch our school video from last year!

Follow us on social media for updates:

Twitter – @NatParkTrust

Instagram and Facebook – @NationalParkTrust

Questions? Contact Billy Schrack, (william@parktrust.org) or Katie Zimmerman, (katie@parktrust.org) or call 301-279-7275.

Solar Panels Gifted to Channel Islands National Park

Santa Rosa Island. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

National Park Trust’s park projects are generally focused on land acquisition. However, when a park is in need and NPT has a partner that can help, sometimes we “step out of the box” to assist the park. This is what happened recently at Santa Rosa Island, one of the 5 islands that make up Channel Islands National Park (CA). The islands are too remote to get power from mainland California and Santa Rosa was in need of new photovoltaic cells (solar panels). Because of our strong partnership with the park and First Solar, NPT is able to help provide a reliable, year-round power source for the island, eliminating recurring blackouts and power-use restrictions.

Thanks to the First Solar Corporate Charitable Fund of the Toledo Community Foundation, 175 solar panels were donated to the park and will be installed to fully upgrade and replace the island’s existing system. The new panels use the same footprint as the old system but will increase the power capacity by over 100%. We will update you on the project’s progress in upcoming issues of NPT News.

To learn more about NPT’s park projects visit our website or contact Phil Selleck, park projects director, at (301) 279-7275 ext. 14.

Buddy Bison and Dare2B Go Green

Photo courtesy of Dare2B.

Over the past few years, through The North Face Explore Fund, NPT has supported Dare2B, a non-profit organization that provides “green” career programming for homeless youth in New York City. This year, the children went to Randall’s Island in Manhattan. They experienced teamwork as they picked vegetables and prepared them for their meal. Then they learned about careers that support the island and the park.

“We are truly grateful to The North Face Explore Fund and National Park Trust,” stated Dare2B Executive Director Roxana Colorado. “The kids left creating new bonds essential to providing them the friendships and stability required to overcome hardships encountered during their transitional living phase.”

Racing Down the River with Buddy Bison

Each fall we welcome our Minnesota partner Wilderness Inquiry and their Canoemobile program which brings six, 24-ft Voyageur canoes to Washington D.C. This year, Buddy Bison students from 19 D.C. and Baltimore schools had fun-filled, educational paddling experiences on the Potomac, Anacostia and Patapsco Rivers. At an event hosted by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and The North Face, 4th graders received their Every Kid in a Park passes which provide them and their families with free entrance to all national parks and federal lands until the end of August. WTOP radio joined us and featured one of our Buddy Bison Schools!

In addition to paddling, the students also enjoyed activity stations on land hosted by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Izaak Walton League, D.C. Science Club, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment, and National Parks Conservation Association.

NPT Welcomes New Board Member Scott Stone

We are excited to announce that Scott Stone has been elected to NPT’s Board of Trustees.

Scott is a partner and co-founder of S2C Pacific, a California-based consulting firm focused on policy, politics, strategy, and communications work across energy, environmental, technology, and infrastructure issues. He is also the founder of Lookfar Conservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wild and wondrous places and working with the people living in and among them.

Earlier in his career, Scott worked as an attorney with Hunton & Williams, as the Director of Global Environmental Initiatives for nContext, as a policy analyst for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), and as a staff attorney for the International Network for Environmental Compliance & Enforcement (INECE). In 2008, he received the U.S. EPA Climate Protection Award and the U.S. EPA Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for his contributions to a 2007 agreement on HCFC control measures under the Montreal Protocol. In 2015, Scott received the Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing.

“I’m honored to join the board of National Park Trust. NPT works with such determination to uphold and, quite literally, expand the legacy of our country’s national parks. And thanks to Buddy Bison, NPT has brought the easy magic and wonder of our parks to kids who might not otherwise get the chance to experience them,” said Scott. “It’s hard not to get excited at the prospect of being a part of this terrific organization. It’s also great to reconnect with the park service, after serving as a volunteer at Badlands National Park for two summers when I was in college.”

“We are very pleased to welcome Scott Stone to the National Park Trust Board. His extraordinary passion for national parks, conservation, and youth engagement along with his professional expertise will be wonderful assets to the board as we continue to acquire lands to benefit our national parks and cultivate future stewards of these special places,” stated Board Chair Bill Brownell.

NPT Welcomes First Youth Programs Fellow: Heimy Salgado

​NPT is pleased to welcome our first Youth Programs Fellow, Heimy Salgado!

Heimy’s years of experience as a Buddy Bison School Program Teacher, combined with her exceptional academic background and dedication to her students make her an outstanding candidate.

In 2004 Heimy joined Teach For America, teaching fourth grade for three years at Little River Elementary School in the community of Little Haiti in Miami, Florida. While teaching in Florida, she also received a Masters of Science in Urban Education from Florida International University. Next, Heimy taught multiple grades and subjects at KIPP DC WILL Academy (a public charter school in Washington, D. C. ) where she was first introduced to National Park Trust (NPT) as a 5th-grade teacher and joined NPT as one of our first Buddy Bison teachers.

Currently, Heimy is the reading specialist and environmental club leader at West Education Campus, a D.C. Title I public school for elementary and middle school students. She has been a part of the Buddy Bison School Program for 9 years – exploring many parks with her students including the Washington Youth Garden, Bladensburg Waterfront Park, and even the White House for the Easter Egg Roll! (Pictured.)

“NPT has been incredibly important to me as an educator because it has given my students the opportunity to experience our wonderful national parks. Through the partnership with NPT, my students have come to value our public lands and become environmental stewards,” said Heimy.

Chad Dayton, NPT board member and chair of the youth programs committee added, “We are delighted to welcome Heimy Salgado to the NPT family. As our first Youth Programs Fellow, Heimy will serve as an education advisor to the NPT board and staff. Her passion, expertise, and insight will be a wonderful asset to our rapidly growing national Buddy Bison program.”

On Patrol With the Crayfish Corps

Earlier this summer, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen who lives in southern New Jersey, volunteered with the Crayfish Corps to help remove invasive rusty crayfish from a stream in Valley Forge National Historical Park (PA). An invasive species is a plant or animal that gets introduced into an area but is not native to it. Over time, the invasive species begin to out-compete native plants or animals for resources. Read about Sarah’s experience below.

“In August, I went to Valley Forge National Historical Park to volunteer for the Crayfish Corps. Back in 2008, the rusty crayfish became an invasive species in Valley Creek, and soon started to dominate over the native crayfish. Rusty crayfish are originally from the Ohio River Basin. The rusty crayfish were harming the native crayfish population very badly. They ate too much of the food that the natives ate, and were also overpopulating the creek. So, to try and solve that problem, the Crayfish Corps has to try and take out rusty crayfish from the creek . The park tries to have one or less rusty crayfish for every four native crayfish in the creek.

The crayfish live under rocks in the creek, so I would lift up a rock and put the net downstream so that the crayfish would move into the net. I then had to identify the crayfish. I learned that the rusty crayfish has rusty-colored spots on its sides and black bands on the claws. After I identified the crayfish, if it was a native, I would count it and put it back in the creek. If it was rusty, it would be put in a bucket. The rusty crayfish would then be frozen and put in the forest to dispose of. In about two hours, our group found about 44 native crayfish and about 10 rusty crayfish. We did find many more native crayfish than rusty crayfish, so that is a really good sign. I had a lot of fun volunteering, so if are ever in Valley Forge National Historical Park, make sure to find out about the Crayfish Corps!

Thanks Sarah for giving back to YOUR local park!

Kids to Parks Day National School Contest is Open!

National Park Trust invites YOU and students across the country to participate in the 8th annual Kids to Parks Day, a nationwide grassroots movement celebrating America’s parks and public lands. Kids to Parks Day takes place every year on the third Saturday of May. In 2018, it will be Saturday, May 19th.

In honor of this day of outdoor play, we are once again hosting the Kids to Parks Day (KTP) National School Contest to help educators engage their students with their local parks through education, outdoor recreation, and stewardship. This national contest is open to all Title I (that means 40% of students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch) schools and school groups in the U.S. (grades preK through 12). Students can submit proposals to fund their KTP Day event in May 2018 at a park or public lands/waterways in their community. We will award park scholarships up to $1,000 to winning entries. Last year, 70 schools received park grants. The contest opens October 1st and closes the February 1st, 2018. Winners will be announced Tuesday, February 14th – Valentine’s Day.

Click here to go to our updated website! You can learn more about the contest, download the entry form (on October 1st), and watch our 60-second school video from last year!

Follow us on social media for updates:

 Twitter – @NatParkTrust

  Instagram and Facebook – @NationalParkTrust

Questions? Contact Billy Schrack, (william@parktrust.org) or Katie Zimmerman, (katie@parktrust.org) or call 301-279-7275.

The Appalachian Trail Needs Your Help

Update (January 23, 2017): Success! NPT and The Trust for Public Land successfully worked to acquire this land in December 2017 for future donation to the National Park Service. Thank you for your interest and support.

If you’ve seen the pristine waters and lush terrain at Maine’s Bald Mountain Pond, you’d understand why National Park Trust (NPT) has been working with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) on the acquisition of an adjacent 1,527-acre parcel of old-growth woodland to benefit the National Park Service’s Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT).

The remoteness and scenic views make the property an iconic destination for backcountry adventures that combine paddling and hiking on the AT into a single day’s outing. Preserving this land from development also protects the nearby Bald Mountain Pond which is one of the few bodies of water that holds landlocked arctic char in the lower 48 states. The federally-listed threatened Canada Lynx also roams nearby, along with moose, fisher and black bears. It is one of the largest 150-year-old forest blocks in central Maine.

Thanks to an extraordinary bequest from John Kauffmann to NPT and the National Park Foundation and wind mitigation funds received by TPL, along with a generous gift from The Conservation Alliance, significant progress toward the $2.4 million cost of the project has been made. However, an additional $700,000 must be raised by December 2017 when the option to buy expires. If not protected, the owner may begin logging or developing the property, which could affect the plant and wildlife communities, the viewshed from the AT, and public access.

This is a time when NPT and the AT really needs your help. We hope that you will join us to protect this extraordinary piece of property by contacting Maryann Kearns, director of development, at  or call (301) 279-7275 ext 15.

#FrankFriday Sept. 15

Looking into the weekend along with Frank Lee Ruggles, Photographer and National Park Trust Artist Ambassador who shot this fantastic sunset image at Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park.

Where are you going to explore this weekend?

#FrankFriday #ChasingLight #Washington

Learn more about Artist Ambassador Frank Lee Ruggles new book, Chasing Light, available now and click here to see more of his images.

KTP Contest Winners Are “Wild” for State Parks

Last spring, more than 70 Title I schools received park grants through NPT’s Kids to Parks Day National School Contest! We featured many of their stories this past summer. We hope they’ve inspired you and many others to enter the contest and make your park dreams come true, too. Two more contest winners from Georgia and Virginia are highlighted below:

Arbor Station Elementary’s (Douglasville, GA) first-grade teacher Lauren Cook hiked with her students (left) to the Civil War ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park and learned about the history of the area. The rangers even introduced them to some of the animals native to the park who live in the visitor center, including a turtle and a snake. The students also picked up trash around the park, filling almost TEN garbage bags. That’s a lot of trash!

Sugar Grove Elementary’s (Sugar Grove, VA) physical education teacher Ashley Cannon journeyed with her fifth graders to Grayson Highlands State Park, where they learned about the importance of butterflies and other pollinators. One student remarked that he originally thought that butterflies were “just pretty insects.” When they hiked up to the waterfalls, they also learned about the ecosystems in the park and “met” the wild ponies, salamanders, and other wildlife that live there. They “gave back” to the park by cleaning up litter and planting native milkweed to entice monarch butterflies to visit (pictured right, courtesy of Sugar Grove). Fifth grader Frost said, “I did not know what a state park did, but after our field trip I learned how important state parks are for our environment.” I agree Frost, and I hope you and your classmates will keep visiting your local parks and taking care of them!

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