Park staff, local residents, and several history buffs gathered together on August 25th to celebrate not one but two special milestones – the 40th anniversary of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and the 96th birthday of the National Park Service.
Two birthday cakes were cut and served to participants at the day’s special activities thanks to the Grand Teton Association, Grand Teton National Park’s cooperating association of 75 years.
Widely known as Founder’s Day, August 25th is not only the date that Congress created the NPS in 1916, but also the date in 1972 that Congress established the JDR Parkway to honor John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for his important contributions to the conservation of remarkable places throughout America and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The JDR Parkway joins two world renowned national parks—Yellowstone and Grand Teton—and serves as a gateway to each for the visitors who travel between the two. The 24,000-acre JDR Parkway also encompasses almost 80 miles of Highways 89 and 191 from Grand Teton's south boundary to West Thumb in Yellowstone, and it provides a first look at the mighty Snake River as it emerges from its wilderness headwaters area near Yellowstone’s southern boundary.
The JDR Parkway serves as the principal unit that commemorates Rockefeller’s generosity and his unfailing work toward preservation of such places as Acadia, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Mesa Verde, Shenandoah, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Virgin Islands.
A series of programs took place on Saturday to recognize the unsparing philanthropy that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. demonstrated over his lifetime. His devoted stewardship to the national park philosophy was the focus of the day. Activities included presentations by local high school students taking part in the Pura Vida Latino outreach program, announcements about a new program that will connect the Jackson area Class of 2016 with Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway and a scholarship competition for local students, the distribution of a new publication that offers a driving tour of Rockefeller-related sites, a history walk with a focus on the creation of Colter Bay Village and the role that the Rockefeller family played in developing visitor services in Jackson Hole, and a slide-illustrated program about the history of America's national parks featuring Rockefeller's contributions that was entitled “For Future Generations: The Story of America's National Parks.”
The highlight of the day included a keynote address by Clay James, retired CEO of Grand Teton Lodge Company and current liaison between the Rockefeller Senior Associates and Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. James delighted his audience with accounts of his lifetime experiences working with Laurance, the third son of John D., Jr. and Abby Rockefeller. Following in his father’s footsteps, Laurance recently gifted 1,106 acres of the former JY Ranch to Grand Teton National Park. Reflective of John D., Jr.’s enduring legacy, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve opened to the public in June 2008.
Forty years ago on September 18, 1972, Laurance attended a ribbon cutting ceremony to honor his father and recognize the newly established park unit. During that ceremony, Laurance remarked, “… perhaps in the long run, Father’s greatest gift to the parks of America may not have been his generous donations of land or development of facilities. In the final analysis, his greatest legacy may have been his belief that man could live in harmony with nature and his example of private citizens working with their government to help create places where man could come and visit outstanding examples of nature’s beauty and renew himself and his faith in God’s presence.”