In 2021, the National Park Foundation (NPF) and its partners protected wildlife and park lands, preserved places of history and culture, educated and engaged youth, and connected people everywhere to the wonder of our parks. It’s work made possible through the power of collaboration and partnership, demonstrating that when we all come together for America's national parks, we can make a big impact.
Together with the park community, NPF works to ensure all people can find their own unique connections to our national parks.
Through NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind provided virtual field trips for those with visual impairments and blindness. Students followed along with ranger videos, which included verbal and audio descriptions, while feeling 3D models of the structures described in the videos. Each video also included a challenge to get students outside to experience a park or the outdoors with family or friends.
As part of NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning grant program, park rangers from Mississippi National River and Recreation Area conducted hands-on, in-person activities in the schoolyards of local Mississippi public schools, 88 percent of which were Title I. Students learned about topics such as The Mystery of the Disappearing Waterfall (geology) and Birds of the Mississippi Flyway (local ecosystems). They also discovered how watershed stewardship and water quality impact the Mississippi River. In total, 436 fourth and fifth grade students participated in these lessons in spring 2021.
NPF continued expanding its Open OutDoors for Kids Hybrid Learning grant program by providing a grant to Everglades National Park, which launched five new programs. Park rangers livestreamed into classrooms and interacted with over 6,000 students in real time while showcasing the South Florida wetland habitat of the park. They also led live virtual-guided tours through the many ecosystems and habitats of the Everglades, along with book readings, meditations, and art lessons. Through the program, students were able to join discussions physically in the park and virtually from their home or classroom.
In recent years, NPF and our partners have expanded support of service corps crews. NPF supports inclusive single-identity crews, including crews whose members use American Sign Language, crews of female veterans, and LGBTQ+, all women-identifying, and Native American crews, respectively. Single-identity crews, such as the Women’s Fire Corps crew, which focuses on training women in fire management and response in our national parks, help participants feel safe and comfortable as they explore our parks, as well as potential park careers.
NPF’s Strong Parks, Strong Communities Capacity Building Grants helped enhance the organizational capacity of 36 park partner organizations, providing a total of $670,000 to help meet the growing needs of nonprofit organizations while strengthening their support for their NPS counterparts. The grants, distributed across the country to an array of philanthropic park partners, supported unique projects that tackled each organization’s particular needs and mission goals.
In 2021, NPF supported and amplified Outdoor Afro’s Juneteenth Commemoration. Outdoor Afro asked participants to consider, “what does freedom mean to me in America?” and spend 2.5 hours in nature to reﬂect in honor of the 2.5 years freedom was delayed for 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Supporting this commemoration is part of NPF and Outdoor Afro’s partnership, aiming to increase access and relevancy, amplify Black voices, and build fundraising capacity for Outdoor Afro.
NPF provided support to Young Masterminds Initiative’s Camping to Connect program, which takes young men of color – typically ages 13-18 – on “life-changing” day-long and overnight journeys in the outdoors. While immersed in nature at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, participants learned fundamental camping and survival skills, while developing a sense of leadership, camaraderie, and brotherhood. Breakout sessions with peers and adult mentors provided a space for these men to be transparent, honest, and vulnerable.
Launched in 2021, ParkVentures supports spaces for communities historically excluded from participation in the outdoors – either through a community’s physical presence on public lands or through the narrative of who belongs in the outdoors. By eliminating barriers, promoting access, and cultivating connections to the many benefits of spending time outside, ParkVentures helps local leaders and organizations in their efforts to bring people together for meaningful experiences in parks. In its inaugural year, NPF raised over $1M in funding for the program and awarded grants to 58 projects.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park partnered with NPF and the Abundant Love Community Center, which works with urban youth and their parents in Cleveland, Ohio, to offer a Father’s Day fishing event as part of the Junior Ranger Angler program. Fathers spent the day with their children learning to fish, later enjoying an outdoor lunch as well as African drumming and other games and activities. The event provided an opportunity for participants to learn a new hobby that will hopefully be the beginning of many more fond memories.
NPF and its partners collaborate on innovative projects to protect our most special places.
Thanks to a partnership between NPF, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Badlands Natural History Association, and Badlands National Park Conservancy, park enthusiasts can look forward to a new visitor center within the Cedar Pass section of Badlands National Park. The new visitor center will provide visitors with more opportunities to learn about the park’s natural, cultural, historical, and recreational resources; improve scientific study of its unique paleontological and geological resources; and help people connect with the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Lakota People.
NPF, Friends of the Smokies, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated the completion of a new trail that provides access for visitors of all abilities to one of Cades Cove’s most popular historic homesites: the John Oliver Cabin. This half-mile paved trail is approximately eight feet wide, which will provide adequate space for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. These accessibility updates will help ensure greater access to one of the park’s oldest and most iconic destinations.
Seven newly built camp sites at Lunksoos Camps in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument replaced a single site and doubled the park’s camping capacity. Integrated seamlessly within the surrounding landscape and trees, the campground is now accessible to all by both road and river, including students who visit the park for classes with the Katahdin Learning Project. The campsite now includes an ADA-compliant tent site and an accessible vaulted toilet. The project was led by Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters and the Elliotsville Foundation, Inc., with support from NPF, L.L.Bean, and in-kind donations from NPS to bring these new campsites to life.
Pullman National Monument celebrated the grand opening of its visitor center, supported by funding from NPF and our partners, including Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. The new visitor center lies within the historic Pullman Administration Clock Tower Building, and further improvements to the site included work on the 12-acre park grounds. NPF also worked diligently with the Historic Pullman Foundation to help build their organizational capacity. To mark the occasion, NPF collaborated with Union Pacific Railroad to commission a vintage-style travel poster by Chicago artist Joe Nelson.
NPF’s Women in Parks program provided $388,000 in support of projects in 2021, supporting intern and fellowship placements in parks across the country and furthered its partnership with NPS’ Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate on the “Dare to Imagine” project. This project is producing multimedia content that showcases the trailblazing conservation work of women. These stories will help inspire women to pursue careers in science, humanities, and history.
NPF’s Cultural Landscape Apprenticeships program welcomed three new apprentices to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Through the program, a collaboration between NPF, NPS, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps, local Hispanic and Latino young adults learn a variety of job skills under the direction of NPS mentors – everything from grounds preservation to preserving historic acequias. It’s a unique opportunity for youth to walk in the footsteps of those living on the missions several hundred years ago while preserving the legacy of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In September of 2021, Running Creek within Congaree National Park was finally protected after a years-long collaborative effort. Running Creek flows for three miles inside the park, with beautiful bald cypress and tupelo trees making it a favorite spot for paddlers. The boundary of the park was adjusted to include the 216-acre parcel, enabling the Friends of Congaree Swamp to purchase and donate the property to NPS with funding support from NPF and the Open Space Institute. This ensures the protection of the creek’s important habitat, two significant floodplain lakes, and an important buffer for a wading-bird rookery.
In 2021, NPF helped preserve many of the precious species and habitats in our national parks, from Hawaiian birds that fly over Haleakalā National Park and the wolves and caribou that roam the Alaskan wilderness at Denali National Park & Preserve, to the salmon, freshwater mussels, and gopher tortoise that populate our seashores, rivers, and lakes. Additionally, NPF supported three NPS Science Fellows who conducted important environmental and park-based fieldwork on bighorn sheep, mesophotic coral reef ecosystems, and landscape scale collaborative conservation.
Kicking off in 2021, a new three-year restoration project in Everglades National Park, supported by NPF and Publix, will improve over 500 acres of the park’s saline glades region by controlling invasive Australian pine trees. The trees reduce available habitat for native plants and animals, and alter freshwater flow into the Florida Bay. “This project supports a healthier future, not only for Everglades National Park and the wildlife that lives there, but also for everyone who lives nearby and depends on the freshwater for their well-being,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of NPF.
In 2021, NPF continued its partnership with Subaru of America to reduce waste in our national parks. The partnership has led to new recycling and composting infrastructure, dedicated staff for educational outreach, and marketing and labeling efforts to decrease contamination in recycling bins. Recycling and composting programs at Denali National Park & Preserve, Grand Teton National Park, and Yosemite National Park have diverted more than 17 million pounds (and counting!) of waste from landfills since 2015.
With help from our partners, including Tupperware and Hydro Flask, NPF is reducing plastic waste by installing water bottle refill stations in more than 10 national parks, including National Mall and Memorial Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Glacier National Park. Thanks to NPF, visitors to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts will be able to utilize two new touchless water bottle filling stations when they attend outdoor performances at the park’s outdoor concert amphitheater.
Funds from NPF are helping Zion National Park replace their 21-year-old propane-powered transit buses with a fleet of 26 zero-emission electric buses. Funds will also enable the park to install 27 charging stations to power the new vehicles and prepare for the charging demands on the electrical grid. Delivery of the new battery-electric buses will occur in phases over the next several years. NPF is doing its part to support NPS in transitioning to clean fuel vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
The National Park Foundation’s Board of Directors and National Council are dedicated champions for the national parks. NPF thanks them for their continued commitment to our mission.
The Board of Directors oversees NPF’s operations, fundraising, partnerships, and programmatic work in parks.
A leadership group of ambassadors and generous park supporters dedicated to furthering NPF’s vision.
The National Park Foundation’s work has been carefully guided by financial stewardship for more than 50 years, making NPF a strong, resilient organization, well-positioned to increase impact in parks through innovative programs and partnerships. Thank you to NPF’s board of directors, past and present, as well as the many donors whose generosity helps advance NPF’s mission.
Complete audited financial statements are available at nationalparks.org.