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Mesa Verde celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service

Mesa Verde celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service

The National Park Service has completed its first 100 years of service, but for Mesa Verde Superintendent Cliff Spencer, the work is far from over.

At a ceremony celebrating the National Park Service Centennial on Thursday morning, Spencer encouraged spectators to continue sharing the parks with others.

“We must introduce the parks to people who have never visited them,” Spencer said.

Established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday this weekend. The agency manages 413 units across the country, from Alaska to American Samoa.

The celebration began Thursday morning with a slate of keynote speakers including Spencer, retired U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Theodore Roosevelt impersonator Will Gray.

Park entrance fees will be waived nationwide from through Sunday for the celebration. Centennial activities at Mesa Verde continue through the weekend and include cliff dwelling tours, Native American dances, a historic walking tour, and a special evening program at Morefield Campground.

President Theodore Roosevelt signed an act in June 1906 that established Mesa Verde as a national park, about 10 years before the formation of the National Park Service in 2016. In early June 1906, he signed the Antiquities Act, which provided for the protection of artifacts on federal lands and gave a president the power to designate national monuments.

The centennial celebration is especially significant because President Barack Obama dedicated the Park Service’s 413th unit Wednesday, using his authority under the Antiquities Act – the 87,000-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument protects lakes and forests in central Maine.

Spencer said the centennial celebrates not only the Park Service’s birthday, but also the agency’s gift to the people.

“National Parks are a gift to us all,” he said. “The agency stands as an example of what people can achieve.”

Eight crew members from the USS Mesa Verde visited the park to commemorate the occasion. Capt. Randall Peck said it’s important for his crew members to be familiar with the namesake park and know the resilience of the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived there. The ancient Mesa Verde settlers share some of the same values as the U.S. Navy, Peck said.

“I can’t think of any more important place to be,” he said.

The crew members are living in the park for several days, working on a trail project in the park.

Crew member Sherman Windley, an aviation specialist, said the crew got the opportunity to see the cliff dwellings in the park, including Balcony House. It’s important for the crew members to come experience the park, he said.

“We represent the park and it represents us,” Windley said.

The trip is the first time in the west for operations specialist Madolyn Azzardi, an Ohio native. Learning about the Ancestral Puebloans and how hard they worked in their daily lives puts perspective on life in the present day, she said.

“Seeing the life and how they had to work for it makes you realize that we have it easy,” Azzardi said. “We have to work a little harder.”

Campbell, a retired senator from Ignacio, spoke about his time in office serving on the U.S. Senate’s National Parks and Public Lands subcommittee. Some special places in Mesa Verde are still being excavated and are still off limits to the public because the National Park Service doesn’t have adequate funding to maintain them.

“Mesa Verde was always a special place for me,” he said.

The ceremony ended with the crowd of about 50 people singing “Happy Birthday” to the National Parks. Spencer thanked the park partners and staff members.

He encouraged spectators to continue exploring Mesa Verde and the rest of the National Parks.

“Share the magic,” he said.

The celebration at Mesa Verde is sponsored by Mesa Verde Park Partner Osprey Packs.

A sampling of nationwide events is available on the National Park Service website www.nps.gov, and more can be found at FindYourPark.com and EncuentraTuParque.com.

This article was corrected on Friday, Aug. 26 to clarify that Mesa Verde National Park was created as a park, separate from the Antiquities Act of 1906.

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