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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Roseville, Michigan)
For Immediate Release                                     April 16, 1999

                        NATIONAL PARK WEEK, 1999

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                            A PROCLAMATION

America's national parks are truly America's national treasures. Within their borders lie much of what is most precious to us: the breathtaking beauty of mountains, rivers, forests, and valleys; the extraordinary richness and variety of plants and animals; the places and artifacts of the special people and events that have shaped both our history and our destiny.

This week we remember with gratitude one of those special people who played a pivotal role in the creation of our country's National Park System. Conservationist John Muir emigrated to the United States as a child 150 years ago this year. As a young man, he experienced for the first time the high country of California's Sierra Nevada and Yosemite, and for the rest of his life he championed America's wild places. "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread," he wrote, "places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike." He became the driving force behind the creation of such national parks as Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon, and was an early advocate of an agency to manage them in a consistent manner. Although he died two years before the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916, many still regard John Muir as the "Father of our National Park System."

Visitors to our Nation's wondrous national treasures can still experience the scenic grandeur that so inspired John Muir. In Washington State's Mount Rainier National Park, glaciers radiate from the summit and slopes of an ancient volcano, rising above dense green forests and brilliantly flowered meadows. This year, we celebrate the centennial anniversary of this cherished national park, preserved because of the vision and efforts of a coalition of mountaineers, geologists, and conservationists, including John Muir.

Today, the National Park System has grown to 378 sites visited by more than 285 million people each year. Each of these sites is interwoven with America's richly diverse natural and cultural heritage to make up the pattern of our past, the fabric of our present, and the promise of our future. The two newest additions to our park system reflect this grand tradition. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas pays tribute to the courage and quiet dignity of nine young African Americans who crossed the color line and changed American society forever. Alabama's Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site celebrates the World War II exploits of the all-black Army Air Corps unit whose members prevailed over prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces to compile a distinguished combat record in defense of freedom.

At these and so many other parks and historic sites across the country, the dedicated men and women of the National Park Service preserve America's heritage and teach a new generation the importance of informed and careful stewardship of our Nation's treasured places. During National Park Week, let us give thanks for the wisdom of all those who established our national parks and for the hard work and generous spirit of all those who continue to preserve them for our benefit. Because of their efforts, Americans will always find in our national parks the beauty, inspiration, knowledge, and renewal of spirit that have blessed our national journey for so long.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 19 through April 25, 1999, as National Park Week.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-third.


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