Celebrating 75 Years: Shenandoah National Park

The success of the western national parks prompted a push to open a large national park in the east. A group of prominent Virginians, who felt this land was too magnificent to go unnoticed, began to promote the idea of a national park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Much of Shenandoah consisted of farmland and second- or third-growth forests logged since the early 1700s. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several sites in the southern Appalachians were considered, but in the end, with a lot of effort by Shenandoah supporters, it was decided to establish a park “within a day’s drive of millions”, making Shenandoah the perfect location for city dwellers to “escape” their busy lives.

At the park’s dedication 75 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt agreed by saying, “…with the smell of the woods, and the wind in the trees, they will forget the rush and strain of all the other long weeks of the year, and for a short time at least, the days will be good for their hearts and for their souls.”

This statement has continued to hold true as the park has grown into one of the most popular national parks in America.

Mountain majesty

On June 25, Shenandoah National Park will be rededicated during a 10 a.m. ceremony at Big Meadows. The entrance fee to the park will be waived that day, and a full slate of activities is planned, The News Virginian reports.

The ceremony will feature “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. The rededication event is free, but tickets are required—all of which have been taken.

“For the remainder of the day after the rededication ceremony, everyone is invited to enjoy the entertainment, hikes, and activities,” said Susan R. Sherman, executive director of Shenandoah National Park Trust (SNPT), the official nonprofit fundraising partner and booster of the park.

Vistas of gently sloping mountains, forests, and tumbling rivers, and mountain streams are stunning especially during autumn. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This will be a big day, but we’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of the park all year long. This anniversary gives the park an opportunity to acknowledge its past, but more importantly to look toward its future.

“It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the communities that surround the park. The two are really mutually beneficial to each other. The park is a huge economic driver for the local economies of these gateway communities.”

During this anniversary year SNPT is organizing activities to encourage people to enjoy this majestic treasure. For example, it’s co-hosting a regional photo contest for professional and amateur photographers, as well as children.

The Trust has also established the Hundred Mile Club, which offers a membership package and members-only events. Those who join agree to pledge or raise $1 for every mile they hike, up to 100 miles in a calendar year, with the money benefiting the park.

75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park

To increase interest and knowledge about the park, a game was created called “75 Reasons to Visit Shenandoah National Park and the Surrounding Communities.” The questions are listed in a brochure that can be found at visitor centers surrounding the park or downloaded at celebrateshenandoah.org.

Hikers trek into the forest along the more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail and are rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Shenandoah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The game features a range of questions about the park and provides the public opportunity to participate in the anniversary celebration, learn more about the area, and win prizes.

A brochure contains the questions about the park and the highlights of the surrounding counties. Anyone participating in the game finds the answers, fills in the blanks, and returns the form to the park by November 1, 2011.

All persons submitting correctly completed entries receive a certificate of participation, a specially designed decal, and qualify for prize drawings in November. The Grand Prize will include a Shenandoah National Park Vacation Package for two at Skyland Resort, a limited edition print of the park that is signed and numbered by the artist, and a biplane ride over the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont of Virginia. In addition, there will be 16 additional prize packages made possible through the support of area attractions and businesses.

Did You Know?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 75th in 2009 and Blue Ridge Parkway is celebrating their 75th in 2010.

Note: This is the final in a four-part series on Shenandoah National Park and its 75th anniversary celebration.

Part 1: Make Your Destination a Journey

Part 2: Driving the Skyline Drive

Part 3: Away I Go to Shenandoah

Worth Pondering…
O Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Away, you rollin’ river
O Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Away I’m bound to go
—lyrics by Nick Patrick and Nick Ingman

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