Where was the idea of National Parks born? Right here in Yosemite, June 30, 1864, where the first wild lands were set aside and protected for “public use, resort and recreation. As the entire Yosemite region ramps up to recognize the 150th anniversary of this historic moment, the signing of the Yosemite Land Grant, and other upcoming park anniversaries, Ranger Kass Hardy has been at the center of the planning efforts. Here’s a chance to get to know Kass better, and find out more about these milestone anniversaries. Scroll to the bottom for a video on the significance of the 150th anniversary event.
Can you tell us a little about how you ended up in Yosemite working on planning anniversary celebrations?
From 2008-2010, I was fortunate to work on a similar project for Glacier National Park’s 100th anniversary. While at Glacier, our team learned from other parks who had recently honored an anniversary – like Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, and Zion. To create a place to learn from one another, we started an informal anniversary working group to ask questions, identify models of programming that worked, and to share successes. A staff member at Yosemite participated on those quarterly calls – and as my term was coming to end at Glacier, they encouraged me to apply for a similar term position at Yosemite.
The Yosemite Grant 150th anniversary is unique in that it is honoring the birth of the national park idea. The amount of history that this incredible landscape embodies is so powerful – and its ability to inspire generations of people is unmatched.
What aspect of the 150th, or this series of anniversaries are you most excited about?
Anniversaries offer us the opportunity to reflect on why places like Yosemite are important. For me, the most inspiring part of the Yosemite Grant 150th project is listening and reading the countless Yosemite stories from visitors, locals, and employees. To me, the Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories book project that the anniversary team initiated and printed in partnership with Yosemite Conservancy is the type of project that anniversaries are all about. Stories promote the essence of why milestones like the 150th are so valuable to our society.
In addition, working on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is truly an honor. The projects associated with the 100th are very visionary – and groundbreaking for the service in some regards.
Many of the events are outside the park. What was the rationale behind those decisions?
The story of Yosemite dates back thousands of years – and goes far beyond the boundaries that we have today. We wanted to utilize the anniversary as an opportunity to work with our neighbors to elevate the significance of this milestone throughout the region — and world. Working with our neighbors has enabled us to have over 245 activities on the calendar — and to have them hosted in locations where people who love Yosemite can more easily attend.
It seems like a sense of community is important to you. What are some of the other community-based organizations that you are involved with in Yosemite?
Yes! I have a lot of energy, enjoy being around people, find volunteering extremely rewarding, and love being creative. I very much appreciate communities and especially enjoy being an active member of the Yosemite community. I have been involved in a few of the organizations in and around Yosemite over the last several years – including the Yosemite Employee Association, Yosemite Rotary, Yosemite Winter Club, and youth soccer through AYSO.
Why are national parks important to you?
National parks are important to me because they are our national heritage. They are the places that share the many unique stories of our past – and allow us to experience today’s cultural and natural world. When you take a minute to really think about what that means – it’s truly astonishing.
I grew to love national parks before I knew about the National Park System. Having lived one mile from Saratoga National Battlefield in upstate New York, I was exposed to a national park throughout my childhood. My family took trips to “the battlefield” often. We would learn about the significant history of those grounds, bike and walk the trails, and watch owls for hours at a time. I think due to this exposure as a child, I have a very deep connection to our national parks – and will always have a special place in my heart for our national parks.