Last updated: 11:03 AM ET, Wed April 01 2015

National Park Service Invites You to 'Find Your Park'

Destination & Tourism | Patrick Clarke | April 01, 2015

National Park Service Invites You to 'Find Your Park'

PHOTO: Grand Teton National Park. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)

With the help of First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush, the National Park Service will launch a new "Find Your Park" campaign on Thursday in an effort to generate support for America's public lands and encourage more diverse generations to visit them, according to the Associated Press

In addition to the campaign, which will feature television and digital ads as well as free admission programs, officials in the background will be working to boost fundraising and support within Congress.

In February, President Barack Obama announced a program that will grant fourth grade students and their families free admission to national parks during the 2015-16 school year. 

What's more, in his 2016 budget proposal, the President requested a $432 million increase to help support the National Park Service, though, with a lack of support in Congress, it remains to be seen whether the proposal will pan out. 

Currently, the lack of funding and visitor diversity, plus much-needed maintenance, pose the biggest threats to America's parks.

Despite counting 292 million visitors nationwide in 2014, the parks are relying on an older and older crowd as time goes by.

"If we were a business and that was our clientele, then over the long term, we would probably be out of business," said National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis.

Perhaps a more immediate concern is the roughly $11 billion backlog of unfunded maintenance that's needed. Many of these aging facilities are approaching the century mark and require extensive overhauls.

But problems like these can't be solved until they are first identified. That's where the new campaign comes in, with ads and online videos poised to help raise awareness. And with corporate sponsors including American Express, REI and Humana joining the cause, along with celebrities like Bill Nye and singer Mary Lambert lending their voice to the issue, there's legitimate reason for optimism. 

"The National Park Service is 100 years old. I hope you stop and think, 'well why isn't it 200 years old?'" said Nye. "It just shows you, I think, how close people came to sort of paving the whole country over."

First lady Obama and former first lady Bush will co-chair the campaign, which is set to launch in New York City on Thursday. 

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