As a Boy Scout, BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh spent time in national parks to complete service projects.
He was the owner of a well-worn National Parks Passport book and was proud of all the stamps he collected.
The story of a young person who developed a lifelong appreciation of national parks through Scouting is not an anomaly. It gets repeated again and again in packs, troops, crews, teams and ships across the country.
The recently renewed partnership between the Boy Scouts of America and the National Park Service benefits both sides. The National Park Service provides opportunities for local units at each of its 417 parks nationwide. The BSA, in turn, encourages Scouts and Venturers to visit those parks and perform service projects there.
It’s a win-win.
That spirit of collaboration and celebration was in the air Tuesday as the BSA and the National Park Service celebrated their partnership at a special ceremony near the Boy Scout Memorial in Washington. The Report to the Nation delegates joined the festivities.
In his remarks, Surbaugh told the crowd that the ties between Scouting and the national parks can be traced all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt.
“President Theodore Roosevelt was an early thought leader in the Boy Scouts, and as we were forming and we were growing across the country as a movement, he was also a staunch advocate of the national parks and expanding acreage,” Surbaugh said.
Roosevelt “felt that there should be a synergy between what Scouts can do, because of our principles of service and leadership, to be involved in the national parks,” Surbaugh said.
Moreover, Roosevelt foresaw that the Scouts “would be an extremely frequent customer of the national parks,” Surbaugh said, “because our whole organization’s mission is to get kids out in the woods.”
‘A very natural fit’
Michael T. Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service, said national parks need Scouts just like Scouts need national parks.
“The partnership with the Boy Scouts is a very natural fit,” he said. “I can think of no better organization than the Scouts to be our next generation of great leaders.”
Reynolds commended the BSA for its service to national parks and communities nationwide. But he also asked for the Scouts’ help.
“We want more visitors to understand and be reintroduced to their national park system,” he said. “Help us to understand your generation. Help us to introduce people in the way that you want to experience these lands.”
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Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland. See more photos here.