National Park Free Week

I am a little bit embarrassed to admit it, but despite my best efforts to remain up-to-date on the news, sometimes my first news source is Facebook. Whether it’s an event I haven’t heard of, a local emergency, a funny story, an earthquake or an election, I often hear it first through social media.

This week, the whole of my social media experience has been speckled with mentions of Earth Day (April 22nd) and Earth Week (next week). One particular Earth Week event has caught my interest — National Park Week. Taken from the event website, the purpose of National Park week is to provide “a chance to hike, learn, share and give back in the nation’s 397 national parks.”

We as Americans are lucky to have inherited over 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, historical landmarks and cultural treasures. Our national parks preserve biodiversity and key habitats, helping our country maintain natural environments in the face of rapid commercialization and development. Virginia has 18 places managed by the National Park Service, not to mention all of the state and city parks in the state as well. All National Parks will have free admission from April 21st to 29th, so take a break from stressing about finals and check out some of our awesome parks nearby.

Colonial National Historic Park includes the Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, Yorktown, Green Spring Plantation and the Cape Henry Memorial. Most students have some experience with the parkway and Jamestown, but Yorktown, Green Spring, and the Cape Henry Memorial are all worth a visit. Yorktown provides an escape from campus, a nice beach and charming shops. If you have a green thumb, Green Spring Plantation could be of interest to you. Sir William Berkeley used it as an experimental farm to find alternative income for colonists when most made their money from exclusively growing tobacco. History buffs will appreciate Cape Henry, where soon-to-be Jamestown colonists erected a cross in 1607 after their safe arrival in Virginia.

Fort Monroe National Historic Site located in Hampton, is a bit more of a drive. It features over 3 miles of beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, 85 acres of wetlands and over four centuries of history.

Petersburg National Battlefield, located a little less than an hour and a half from campus, serves as a reminder of the civil war. It is actually a network of significant battle locations centered around Petersburg and focusing on Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of Petersburg, which was the longest siege in American history.

The National Park system, one of “America’s best ideas,” provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the heritage of our county, providing a window into its natural state and history. If you’re a cash-strapped college student (like so many of us are), use next week to get outside and enjoy your national parks.


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