March 22, 2013 - It was a cool, drizzly day but the clouds started to dissolve as the sun began to set behind the Santa Catalina Mountains. Tables were set with antique native basket centerpieces, mahi mahi tacos and other delicacies were being prepared, the Aracelli Strings orchestra began to play, and guests began to arrive.On the evening of March 9th, Western National Parks Association (WNPA), held its Danson with the Parks: WNPA’s 75th Anniversary Celebration in Tucson, Arizona. With special guest Ted Danson, the event commemorated WNPA’s long history and partnership with the NPS and the association’s 75 years of connecting people to the national park experience.
During the celebratory event, WNPA presented its annual awards to four individuals for their outstanding work on behalf of national parks. Director Jarvis was scheduled to present the Stewart L. Udall Award to Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson. Unfortunately, neither was able to attend the event because of sequestration.
WNPA Board Chair, Dr. James F. Brooks stepped in and presented the Udall Award to Johnson who accepted the award via a short video. Established in 2011, the award honors individuals whose work boosts park interpretation programs, carries the park message to broad audiences, or rallies public wide-ranging support for parks.
On selecting Johnson, WNPA Executive Director James L. Cook stated: “Through his work, Johnson shares the stories of the American West. He has put parks in the national spotlight, spreading those stories and national park values to new and diverse audiences. He has demonstrated a unique talent for connecting people to parks, helping to deepen their understanding and appreciation.”
Director Jarvis sent a letter of congratulations to WNPA that was read at the event. “I extend my warmest congratulations to [WNPA] . . . your valued service to the parks and to the millions of visitors who pass through our doors . . . I am also delighted—and grateful—for your efforts to ensure the national parks remain relevant in the years to come. The work that you are doing to bring parks to people in urban areas and to use technology to reach new audiences—particularly kids and families—is timely, exciting.”
Other awardees honored that evening included novelist Nevada Barr, U.S. Congressman Raúl Grijalva, and retired NPS marine biologist Gary Davis.
Earlier that day, WNPA and the NPS participated in Tucson Festival of Books, which had an estimated attendance of over 100,000 people. Collectively, the showing, sponsored by WNPA, brought together more than a dozen parks and partners to create a National Parks Pavilion at the festival. The pavilion drew thousands of people over the weekend and featured a wide array of activities to showcase national parks including: kids’ activities, living history presentations, music, and multiple book signings.
Actor Ted Danson, appeared with Eric Penner Haury, author of Edward Bridge Danson: Steward of the New West to host a conversation with Ted about his father’s rich legacy. A noted archeologist, Ned Danson was an exceptional park supporter, WNPA board member, and National Park System Advisory Board member. The presentation and book signing event that followed drew unprecedented crowds to the National Parks Pavilion.