In 1986, the Eastern National Park & Monument Association (ENPMA) began the popular Passport to Your National Parks program. ENPMA, in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), developed imitation passports to encourage parents and children to visit the parks. Each passport includes maps, visitor information, photographs and illustrations. The passport is stamped with each visit to a national park, just as a genuine passport would be when entering a new country.
Mary Bomar, director of the NPS, and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) recently unveiled a new book to augment the effort entitled Kids’ Passport to Your National Parks Companion. The companion includes places for stamps and for writing notes and memories about each park.
Senator Burr spearheaded the kids’ companion idea, hoping to “excite a whole generation of young Americans about the beauty and history of our nation.” He believes that “too often today, America’s youth find their entertainment on television and computer,” and that “there is a lot more fun to be had in our national parks than there is on television.”
The passports are targeted to children from six to 12, and are available for purchase through ENPMA (www.easternnational.org), whose profits benefit the NPS. The books will also be available at most national parks. The kids’ passports are meant to supplement, not replace, the original Passport to Your National Parks.
There are 391 national park service sites throughout the country. Those in the Appalachian Mountains area include the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Shenandoah National Park, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, the Gauley River National Recreation Area, the New River Gorge National River, and several historic, heritage and military sites.