Celebrating 100 Years of Our National Parks

We asked Klean’s President and CEO Jim Osgood to share his thoughts on the National Parks Centennial and why it is an occasion worth celebrating. Here’s what he had to say about his connection to the parks as well as Klean’s.

I vividly remember the day I fell in love with our National Parks. I was 10 years old.

It was July 4th, 1976, and I was sitting on the top step directly in front of the Lincoln Memorial. My family and I gathered among a million others in Washington, D.C., to celebrate our nation’s bicentennial. As spectacular fireworks danced on the National Mall reflecting pool and a green “laser” beamed into space from atop the Washington Monument, I marveled at the history that surrounded me. I was immersed in a place that had previously only existed in my life as pictures in a textbook. Experiencing those pictures as they came alive was a dream come true. Reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – enshrined on the wall just a few feet away – confirmed the importance of our history and the power of personal experience to connecting us to these special places we call our parks.

That was 40 years ago. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it set in motion a lifelong relationship with our National Parks. Walking in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers on historic battlefields (at age 11), hiking rim to rim in the Grand Canyon (at 15), running trails in Saguaro National Park (at 18), cycling over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (at 30), or being showered by spring runoff under Ribbon Fall in Yosemite (at 50) and the hundreds of National Park visits in between, these experiences instilled a sense of awe, enlightenment, curiosity and responsibility to share and protect these places. Whether absorbing scenic landscapes or learning history by touching it, I’ve realized that each of our National Parks offers a unique educational adventure. The end result of my personal experiences is that I’ve become an unofficial steward of our National Parks. Not because my parents told me about these places; it was because they allowed me to experience them in person when I was a kid.

That’s why I’m so proud of the partnership Klean Kanteen has with NatureBridge. Every year, NatureBridge introduces more than 30,000 kids to the outdoors, providing them with immersive educational programs and personal connections to our parks. Many of these kids have never been to a park or even outside their community. Through their hands-on programming and by fostering a certain level of environmental literacy, NatureBridge allows these kids to fall in love with the outdoors and become inspired to be the next generation of conservationists.   

I recently toured the new NatureBridge National Environmental Science Center under construction on the west edge of Yosemite National Park. It knocked my socks off! Not only is this an amazing location and a facility that will easily accommodate two to three times the number of visiting kids it currently does, it’s designed to embody lessons of sustainability and stewardship. From the salvaging and using huge timbers from recent wildfires near Yosemite, to convection heating of rooms through filtered body heat, to capturing methane from the waste systems that heat water, this campus is a powerful demonstration of innovation, sustainability and environmental stewardship. This place is sure to inspire these kids and, like me, start their lifelong relationship with our national parks and their love of the outdoors.

As we celebrate 100 years of our National Parks, join the Klean family and me by exploring one of our over 400 parks, memorials, historic sites and monuments. There’s one out your backdoor. Go find your park.