The National Park Foundation is Powered by Nature Lovers

Dec 22, 2015 2:00 PM ET

Filmmaker Ken Burns famously explored “America’s Best Idea” with his blockbuster documentary that highlighted the National Park Service’s protected lands, now more than 400 units strong.

In 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary. As part of the festivities, an initiative called “Find Your Park” (Encuentra Tu Parque in Spanish) encourages Americans to explore the scenic beauty in their own backyards. Already among the nation’s most popular destinations, the parks could see record attendance.

In partnership with the park service, the National Park Foundation (NPF) helps safeguard these special places. Volunteers play an important role, contributing more than 6.7 million hours of time in 2014. They donate their time and skills in many ways, from maintaining trails and serving as citizen scientists to assisting archaeologists and providing visitor information.

As important as manpower is, money is also necessary to preserve our treasured parks. NPF doesn’t receive any federal funding, so it relies on private donations to accomplish many goals.

“Private support has been important since the very beginning of national parks,” says Susan Newton, senior vice president of grants  and programs at NPF. “More than a century ago, it was individuals and private companies that stepped up to protect the places they loved. Private support allows us to protect national parks, connect people everywhere from all backgrounds to them and inspire the next generation of park stewards.”

Subaru is a champion of conservation. Since teaming with NPF in 2013 through the Share the Love Event, Subaru has underwritten programs and projects in more than 90 parks. Every customer who buys or leases a new Subaru vehicle through Jan. 2 can select the National Park Foundation to receive a $250 donation from Subaru. To date, $3 million has been donated to protect threatened species and habitats and conduct outreach and education in local communities.

“Thanks to a grant supported in part by Subaru, students in New York City were able to visit national parks -- many for the first time,” says Newton.

Like many park visitors, Newton was introduced to the parks as a child and understands how the experience can shape and add meaning to one’s life.

“My first visits to national parks were on family vacations. Those trips instilled a deep appreciation for our parks. As I became a young adult, my love for travel continued, and I began more adventurous trips, such as a weeklong canoe trip in Michigan’s Boundary Waters.”

Since joining NPF in 2007, Newton’s appreciation for these varied lands has only deepened.

“I’ve come to appreciate the true breadth and depth of the park system -- not only the great landscapes, but also places that capture America’s history and important cultural aspects of our country,” she says. “These places inspire a love of life-long learning and exploration.”