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Show your love for our national parks with a creative entry into the Centennial Project

National parks
Pretty dang spectacular. Photo: Kristopher Schoenleber via Share the Experience

Earlier this summer, I unzipped my tent on the beach in Washington's Olympic National Park to mist rolling off the ocean between rock towers. I couldn’t do much besides gape and say a whole bunch of cuss words about how it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

I’m prone to superlatives, especially early in the morning, but it really just might have been the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Sometimes it's easy to forget how good we have it, and that so many of the most beautiful places in the U.S. are protected as parks.

I'm not trying to proselytize. It's actually really easy to forget that you, indirectly, own Yosemite and the Tetons, and that even small, out-of-the-way parks like Chimney Rocks are breathtakers. So, in honor of the National Park Service's 100th birthday this coming year, the National Parks Foundation (which never forgets how ridiculously good the parks are) is putting on a little contest to get people to show their love for these protected spaces.

It's called the Centennial Project. You submit some form of creative work on their site. It can be a photo or a song or a painting. It could be a Vine of an interpretive dance. Whatever the spirit moves you to do, you can send in.

Your content then gets up-voted on the site. The top 100 submissions get some kind of prize, and the five best ones get their work expanded on by a team of five celebrity judges, including Bill Nye and Mary Lambert. You upload a finished product and then they riff off of it, creating something new.

The John Day Fossil Beds. Maybe not on your radar, but definitely beautiful. Photo: National Park Foundation
The John Day Fossil Beds. Maybe not on your radar, but definitely beautiful. Photo: Courtesy of the National Park Foundation

It's not just an attention-grabbing trick. Well, maybe it is, but there's a good reason for that. The parks are working to modernize themselves and to bring in a younger generation of visitors.

One hundred years in, the National Park Service wants a way to draw attention to itself and remind us of how awesome your lands are. Because, see above, they are.

It's worth submitting. Or, even if you don't, think about getting out into some public lands and taking some pictures or writing a poem, or having a drum circle or whatever it is you do to get creative.

The contest isn't just about creating media. It's about being appreciative, and remembering how good we have it.

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