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White Sands Celebrates National Park Service's 100th Anniversary

White Sands National Park

Across the country, National Parks are finding different ways to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

White Sands National Monument is one of the most visited National Parks in New Mexico. Marie Sauter, Superintendent of White Sands National Monument says the National Parks provide a valuable service.

“National Park present opportunities,” Sauter said. “As well as state parks and local regional parks for folks to get out to really appreciate the natural environment, our natural, national heritage, as well as our history and our cultural heritage. The National park service is premier in protecting and presenting to the public both the natural and the cultural heritage of this country.”

Sauter says White Sands will be celebrating the centennial throughout 2016.

“Throughout the year we’re organizing our events to be National Park Service themed,” Sauter said. “So, for example, we are featuring one of our step into the past programs, I think that’s next month that we’ll talk about the history of the National Park Service uniform.”

White Sands is also debuting new outdoor exhibits with historical and environmental information directly at the site.

These exhibits are outdoor exhibits are an opportunity for visitors to come and be at the resource,” Sauter said. “So, they can read and learn about the resource, which is right there at their feet, in their vista, something they are going to venture out into. It’s the best way to connect with the resource is to be at it and to learn about it right there.”

Sauter says you can visit the exhibits down dune drive and learn the full story of the monument.

“Visitors can really understand the dune ecosystem,” Sauter said. “The gypsum dune ecosystem. So, not only do you learn about the history, and some of the cultural history of the monument and the Tularosa basin. But also about the ecology, and how the ecology differs and changes throughout the drive.”

Sauter says they are also focusing on a theme for the centennial celebration, engaging the future.

“The goal is to create and generate new stewards and advocates and new park visitors for the National Park Service,” Sauter said. “Who will care about the very special things that belong to this country. So, we have engaged in the youth by creating a new digital system, featuring things such as facebook and twitter and so forth.”

Sauter says they are also working on educational programs for kids.

“The every kid in a park is an opportunity to bring all 4th graders out into the National Park System,” Sauter said. “We have a fledgling environmental education program, curriculum based, these are the kind of things that we’re reaching out into the future with. Things that the park service visitors can embrace and then are local communities can also engage in.”

White Sands is also hoping to help teach kids about park safety with the help of a new mascot- Riley the Roadrunner.

Samantha Sonner was a multimedia reporter for KRWG- TV/FM.