2016 is shaping up to be a great year for celebrating historic preservation.  The National Historic Preservation Act turns 50, and the National Park Service turns 100!  Throughout the next year, the National Park Service and its partners will announce a number of initiatives for this centennial celebration.  A few days ago, President Obama declared this week (April 18-26, 2015) as National Park Week, which the National Park Service (NPS) and its partner, the National Park Foundation, call “America’s largest celebration of national heritage.”  All week long people can explore the country’s National Parks and connect with others who love and support these treasures and ensure their longevity over the next 100 years.

But, you ask, what do the National Park Service’s centennial celebrations have to do with Pennsylvania’s State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO)? Hint: It’s not only because Pennsylvania boasts 5 National Parks (in addition to several National Historic Sites, Trails, Monuments, Heritage Areas, Recreational Areas… and the list goes on!) or because NPS funds a large number of the federal programs administered by our office….

You may have noticed the National Park Service’s #FindYourPark public service announcements on social media, in magazines, and on television. If they are like me, when most people hear about National Parks, they automatically think about someplace like Yellowstone and similar locations that celebrate the outdoors, natural wonders, and sacred grounds.  With the #FindYourPark initiative, the Park Service wants us to expand our idea of what a park is by challenging us to think about a park as a place, passion, or state of mind rather than just as a physical place to visit on vacation.   Parks are about history and heritage, and finding your own park and telling your story about it, whether it is the small Art Deco movie theater where you had your first date or the majestic river valley that sparked your love of the environment, bolsters our understanding of the places that are important in our individual or collective lives.

A park can be many different things to many different people. Take a few minutes to watch this PSA from the National Park Service about #FindYourPark

It’s that catchy #FindYourPark slogan’s tagline “Find your Park! Find your Heritage! Find the Stories!” that makes the connection for me to historic preservation and what we do at the SHPO.  Through our programs, outreach, and relationships, we also seek to identify, celebrate, and protect the special and important places in communities across Pennsylvania.  These buildings or archaeological sites may not be parks in the traditional sense of the word but they connect Pennsylvanian’s to our shared values of heritage and our own rich and different histories.

Once you’ve found your park, the National Park Service wants to hear about it – whether it’s about a historic preservation project that saved a local landmark, a fun-filled family vacation to one of the country’s grand landscapes, or something in between; you can share it here.  To help everyone find and tell their story, the National Park Service has also developed some new initiatives to delve into the history of women, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the LGBTQ community.

So, where is your Park?