Public Lands Day is an annual commemorative date that honors and promotes America’s unique heritage of vast public lands and public parks. With 391 units (58 national parks, plus 333 national monuments, historic sites and other units), the National Park Service is one government agency which preserves, protects and promotes public lands. The National Park Service (NPS) has a presence in 49 of the 50 states (Delaware is the sole exception). The NPS administers two parks in the St. Louis area, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, including the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse, and Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in South St. Louis County.
This year’s Public Lands Day will coincide with the presentation of the latest Ken Burns documentary on PBS, America’s Best Idea, which profiles America’s National Parks. Like the idea of freedom itself, the national park idea has been constantly tested, is constantly evolving and is inherently full of contradictory tensions: between individual rights and the community, the local and the national; between preservation and exploitation, the sacred and the profitable; between one generation’s immediate desires and the next generation’s legacy.
In honor of Public Lands Day there will be a Fee Free Weekend throughout the National Park Service on September 26 and 27. At the Gateway Arch, the $3.00 entrance fee will be waived and discounted off the fee to the Top of the Arch or to either of the two Visitor Center movies.
Beneath the Arch, a special program will be presented on 19th century photography, with a “living history” character from the past, William Henry Jackson, a 19th century photographer of the West. In 1871 Jackson was a member of the Hayden Geological Survey which explored the Yellowstone country. His photographs of the waterfalls, geysers, and vast, spectacular geography were instrumental in convincing the United States Congress to preserve the area as the first National Park - Yellowstone National Park. Learn about Mr. Jackson and his experiences in photographing the west and the photography process of the 19th century.
Location: Museum of Westward Expansion, at the Pilot’s Wheel
Time: 10am to 4pm
The Arch and the Old Courthouse will present a special preview of scenes from Ken Burns’ latest documentary America’s Best Idea, to be shown on PBS beginning September 27. Short film segments from the documentary about Mount Rushmore, San Antonio Missions, Manzanar, Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers and City Kids will be shown in the Arch lobby and at the Old Courthouse throughout the day. See http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/ for more information on the documentary.
A Leave No Trace Questing Hunt will provide visitors with an opportunity to learn how to be good stewards of their national parks while exploring this park. Visitors can pick up a questing map and clues at the Public Lands tables in the Arch lobby and at the Old Courthouse. Rangers will be available to assist with your Quest. Visitors completing the Quest will receive National Park trading cards.