Showing Some Love to the National Parks

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of the blossoming cherry trees to Washington, DC from the Mayor of Tokyo, Japan. This year the Cherry Blossom Festival, hosted by the National Park Service, runs from March 20 to April 27, with the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Street Festival), to be held today, April 14.

Three Fridays ago, I spent most of the afternoon at the Tidal Basin admiring the cherry blossoms at their peak along with thousands of other people from around the world who were taking advantage of the perfect weather.

On my way to the Tidal Basin, I saw several bikers and runners on the path that runs alongside the George Washington Parkway (also run by the National Park Service), which is actually pretty gorgeous as far as parkways go, with several nice spots where you can picnic among the tress along with a close-up view of the Potomac River.

Right next to the Tidal Basin sits our National Mall, which isn’t looking quite as pretty. The National Mall’s last renovation was 30 years ago, after the country’s bicentennial in 1976. Between the reduced Park Service budgets, which haven’t allowed for adequate upkeep, and the over 25 million annual visitors (more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon combined!), the Mall is in pretty sad condition.

Our national parks are an incredible resource, and I highly recommend visiting them. Being outdoors has so many benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Even if you don’t have a lot of vacation time, you can search the National Park Services’ website. to find a National Park near you that can be visited in just one day or afternoon.

Even if you don’t have time to visit them right now, there are a few ways you can help support the health and vitality of our National Parks. First, the Eco Etsy team is holding their Annual Handmade for Earth Day Auction. All proceeds from the year’s auction go to support the National Park Service. I highly recommend you check out the beautiful eco-friendly items being auctioned off for this good cause.

A second way you can help is by supporting The Trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, which is dedicated to “restoring and improving the National Mall while providing new educational and volunteer activities to connect visitors to the Mall’s rich history.”

You can also join the L’Enfant Society whose members support the Trust for the National Mall in its mission “to raise funds to restore the National Mall and build awareness for the current state of the country’s most visited national park.” You can download a PDF of the L’Enfant Society Membership Brochure. Another fun way to support the park is by attending the L’Enfant Society’s 4th Annual Ball on the Mall will be held on Saturday, May 5, 2012!