Recognition of America's great places– and the social and evironmental benefits of preserving them– goes back to the 19th century, when the naturalist and conservationist John Muir wrote that we all, "need beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." It wasn't, however, until the early 20th century that the American government dedicated an institution to preserving, protecting, and promoting our nation's most beautiful places. More specifically, it wasn't until August 25th, 1916 that Stephen Mather became the first director of the newly created American parks. 

This Tuesday, to celebrate its 99th birthday, the National Park Service will be waiving entry fees for both individuals and commercial tours. It should be a great opportunity to get out and commemorate the creation of our favorite branch of the federal government. It should also be a great warm-up for next year's centennial celebration– keep tuned here for more about that.