Shenandoah National Park celebrates 75 years

I’m currently sitting in a rocking chair in Big Meadows Lodge at Shenandoah National Park listening to a young man talk about his day to what I presume to be his girlfriend back home. “We just spent two hours laying in the grass,” he says, adding “it felt good to just be really, ridiculously lazy.” I don’t know who this guy is or where he is from, but I think many of us can relate to his feeling of uninhibited bliss when visiting our nation’s great parks.

In a radio address in 1932, William Carson – the chairman of the Commission of Conservation and Development for Virginia – predicted that “scenery is going to be Virginia’s next cash crop.” He was right. Whether you want to just take in the views of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains or get out and be active, Shenandoah National Park has been a treasured getaway since its inception in 1935.

This year, the park is celebrating its 75th year with a rededication ceremony and a contest that will gift a lucky visitor with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a two-night stay in the park. On June 25th, the park will waive all entrance fees and has planned a full day of activities for its rededication, including plenty of projects and games for the kids. Park employees are expecting President Obama – who officially resides a little over two hours away in Washington, DC – to make an appearance at the ceremony. The park, which was established in 1935, has never made an official press announcement about the event, yet all 900 tickets to the big shebang were sold out back in May.

Park supervisor Karen Beck-Herzog says “75 years later, I think the park’s founders have delivered the dream.” Even if you can’t join in on events during the park’s official party, you can visit and pick up a brochure that doubles as a game of questions about the park and surrounding communities (or download it at online). Fill it out and send it in by November 1st to be entered in a contest with a grand prize for a vacation package at Skyland Resort, which is located in the park. The package includes a two-night stay, a biplane ride over the Shenandoah Valley, a guided horseback ride, and two limited edition prints of the park that are signed and numbered by artist Kevin H. Adams. There will also be 16 additional drawings for other prize packages that were generously donated by people and organizations that love the park.

I’ll be here for the next few days relaxing, hiking, and learning about this park’s legacy. Stay tuned.

[Photo by Libby Zay]