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A maple leaf on the forest floor, Canada. Photo by: Yvonne Metcalfe/My Shot

Happy 100th Birthday Parks Canada!

Happy Birthday Parks Canada! Today (May 19, 2011) marks the 100th year of the oldest national park system in the world. Parks Canada oversees the protection and preservation of 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 marine conservation areas.

Banff National Park, in the Rockies of Alberta, was founded in 1885, and was Canada’s first national park and the third in the world (Bogd Khan Uul in Mongolia is the oldest, founded in 1778 and America’s Yellowstone second, 1872). Twenty-six years after the designation of Banff, the Canadian government recognized that a system was needed to ensure the ideology behind the park’s title was upheld. The Dominion Parks Branch was born. Today the Dominion Parks Branch is called Parks Canada and some 12 million people visit the areas they are entrusted to protect every year.

Special programs to celebrate this centennial throughout the country include: free concerts by popular Canadian artists in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Parks Day (July 16th), an open audition for Operation Unplugged Operation Unplugged Operation Unplugged (an online and broadcast program that gives eight urban youths a chance to go ‘unplugged’ within Canada’s parks,) and free events and family activities like “learn to camp” programs being held throughout the summer.

If you can’t make it to a Canadian park to celebrate the protection of wild splendor, take a look at the National Parks Project website, a sophisticated collection of musical and visual art paying tribute to 13 of the parks. Although the longer films housed on the website can only be viewed from within Canada, there are many other things to explore including photos, music inspired by the parks, shorter videos, and poetic descriptions of the parks themselves.

Finally, join the celebration from home by tweeting your park memories and well wishes for another 100 years using the hash tag: #PC100.

Photo: Yvonne Metcalfe/My Shot