By Jeffrey V. Smith
Centennial celebrations only come around once in a lifetime, and Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th Anniversary is shaping up to be an enormous one not to be missed. The year-long celebration begins, Sept. 3 and 4, with kick-off events featuring music, treats, and “special representatives” of the park’s past, present, and future. Throughout the fall, 100th Anniversary events feature special presentations, music, food, art, theater and something for the entire family throughout the park, Grand Lake and Estes Park.
“Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th Anniversary is a chance to celebrate a century of wilderness, wildlife, and wonder. It’s a chance to celebrate the foresight that the original advocates had when they supported the creation of this park in 1915,” Rocky Mountain National Park Anniversary Coordinator and Park Ranger Interpreter Barbara Scott said. “Since then we’ve learned so much about the natural world and how the American public interacts and connects with it. This 100th Anniversary celebrates how those connections have made the park what it is today. The celebration isn’t just about the park, it’s about the park and the people that love it.”
Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Trail Ridge Road—which crests over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds—along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times. Today, approximately three million people visit and enjoy the park each year. As park officials like to say, “Rocky is on top!”
Park visitors love it for many reasons including its extensive backcountry, great camping and fishing, world-class views, ranger programs, driving above treeline and many more.
“I’m in love with the tundra,” Scott said. “It’s a magical place that just blows everything else away. When I go there I’m reminded of how proud and honored I am to be one of the people helping to protect this amazing landscape for people in the future to be able to enjoy.”
Whether you’re a regular visitor, a national park traveler, or a virtual explorer, organizers especially hope Colorado residents will be drawn to anniversary events along with out-of-state visitors. According to Scott, even though Rocky Mountain is a national park and belongs to all Americans, Coloradoans see this place as their backyard park. “One hundred years ago, Coloradoans worked to make it a national park, so it is fitting that Coloradoans come back during our 100th Anniversary to celebrate their work,” she said. “This is a great time to visit and discover what the park’s all about if [you’ve] never been here, and if [you’re] a regular visitor, this a great time to come back, see the park with new eyes, and celebrate why [you] come here.”
Scott is “always impressed” that the park was created mainly through the advocacy of local residents. “It shows that people can make a difference by supporting the things they care about,” she said. “Park visitors today owe a debt of gratitude that those early advocates had the foresight to protect this place that otherwise might have been over-developed and loved to death.”
The other piece of history that is striking to Scott is the more recent designation of nearly 250,000 acres of the park as official Wilderness, which permanently protects that area from human impacts. “The fact that after 100 years this park is more protected than it was when it was created is pretty amazing,” Scott said.
Planning for the year-long celebration has been going on for about two years. “Probably the most challenging part of planning this celebration was trying to make sure there was something for everyone,” Scott explained. “We’ve worked with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy and the towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park, as well as created several social media campaigns, to try to include events and activities that celebrate as many of the reasons that people love and visit Rocky Mountain National Park as possible.”
Kick-off events for the Rocky Mountain National Park Centennial promise to be a great start to a full year’s worth of special events throughout the park and surrounding communities. A Kick-off Ceremony will be held on the east side of the park, Sept. 3, from 1- 3 p.m. The event will be held at Hidden Valley however, to attend this event, visitors must board a shuttle bus from the Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride, 1170 Manford Ave., in Estes Park. Buses begin service at noon and will continue through 5 p.m.
A Kick-off Ice Cream Social will be held on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Sept. 4, from 1- 3 p.m. The event will be held at the Holzwarth Historic Site however, to attend this event, visitors must board a shuttle bus from the Grand Lake Town Hall or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center. Special guests, music, activities, and treats will round out the two-hour events.
Centennial events continue through next year until the actual 100th anniversary of the park’s dedication, Sept. 4, 2015.
Beginning in Fall 2014 and running through the end of 2015, the park’s non-profit partner, Rocky Mountain Conservancy, will offer full, half, and multi-day field classes to celebrate the Centennial. Visit http://www.rmconservancy.org to find out more about these classes.
Also, visitors traveling into the RMNP area of the Peak to Peak Highway can stop at The Old Gallery, 14862 Hwy. 7 in Allenspark, for park information and promotional materials.
All information about the celebration is available online at http://www.nps.gov/romo. “That’s the best place to go,” Scott said. “We’ll also be posting great video and photographs on our social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Even if people can’t make it out to the park to celebrate, there are great ways to celebrate with us from afar via the web.”
SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK 100TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION EVENTS
Kick off Ceremony – RMNP
Wonder of the Wild – Images of RMNP Gallery
Kick off Ice Cream Social – RMNP
Wonder of the Wild II, Grand Lake Art Gallery – Grand Lake
Longs Peak Scottish Irish Festival – Estes Park
Hike the Ute Trail with a Naturalist – Rocky
Mountain Conservancy Centennial Seminar
Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary Wilderness Walk, Lily Lake – RMNP
A Celebration of RMNP, Kawuneeche Visitor Center – RMNP
Oil Painters of America Great Paint Out, Trail River Ranch – RMNP
Music, Munchies, and Maybe a Moose, Trail River Ranch – RMNP
The First 100 Years – Rocky Mountain Conservancy Centennial Seminar
Bighorn Sheep Ecology – Rocky Mountain Conservancy Centennial Seminar
The Women of Wind Research in RMNP – Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium @ RMNP
Photographing the Wildlife and Wonder of Autumn with John Fielder – Rocky Mountain Conservancy Centennial Seminar
Constitution Week Concert featuring Peggy Mann – Grand Lake
Paint Something Grand– Grand Lake
Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters Opening Reception, Quick Draw, Art Show, and Sale – RMNP
Centennial Speaker Series: Mary Taylor Young – Kawuneeche Visitor Center @ RMNP
Trappers Wild Game Culinary Affair – Grand Lake
September 26-October 4
Climb On! – an exhibit –Estes Park Museum
Centennial Speaker Series: Mary Taylor Young – Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium @ RMNP
Free Entrance Day –RMNP
The Playground Trail: The National Park-to-Park Highway – Estes Park Museum
Centennial Speaker Series: Robert Stanton – Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium, RMNP
Wilderness, Wildlife, and Wonder Halloween – Grand Lake Community House
To find out more and get involved, visit Rocky Mountain National Park’s 2014 Centennial Calendar of Events at http://www.nps.gov/romo and look for the Centennial logo. Check the park website regularly or follow RMNP on social media @Rockynps for updates on 100th Anniversary events and planning. For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park, contact the park’s Information Office at 970-586-1206.
Published in September 2014 issue of MMAC Monthly