Right in the middle of the civil war, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that designated Yosemite Valley a state preserve saying that the "premises shall be held for public use, resort and recreation." His actions spoke volumes about the importance of preserving natural beauty, protecting the land, and giving the people a place to appreciate, celebrate, and explore it.
The President of America's State Parks Foundation, Joe Elton, thinks that promise dates back even further.
"I really think this is all rooted in the Declaration of Independence—'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'—the parks are where we pursue happiness. They're where my family and friends create our memories."
Elton is on a mission to protect that right and spread the appreciation to future generations.
"I'm committed to helping re-energize appreciation for what the generations before us fought to preserve."
His efforts extend to both state and national parks which, if you go back far enough, are one in the same. Yosemite, which started as a state park, became a national park before the turn of the century. Yellowstone was the first park to skip the state designation and be declared a national park from the get-go. The reason was simple: there was no actual state in that area at the time. Niagara Falls holds the longest-standing state park designation.