Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park marks 95th birthday

January 26, 2010, 8:23 am

As park officials and advocates begin to look ahead to its 2015 centennial, Rocky Mountain National Park turns 95 years old today.

On Jan. 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation creating Rocky Mountain National Park, the second-to-last national park to be designated before the 1916 creation of the National Park Service.

The creation of the park was the vision of Enos Mills, who first climbed Longs Peak in 1887 at age 15. A lifelong advocate for the park, he led the effort to encourage Congress to declare a national park that would preserve a portion of the Rocky Mountains for both recreation and natural resource protection.

Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker said there will be little celebrating today, only an announcement of the anniversary.

"The significance of the 95th is just a good reminder that the centennial is coming up," Baker said. "The centennial in parks is usually a big deal."

Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado spent all of 2006 celebrating its centennial, a much-heralded affair culminating in a big final year-end event, during which park staff illuminated one of the park's most famous cliff dwellings, Cliff Palace, with lanterns at night.

Next year, Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction celebrates a centennial.

But Rocky Mountain National Park's big day will be the warm-up for the National Park Service's own centennial, for which the agency is spending an entire decade to prepare.

The park's 100-year mark, Baker said, "shows that Enos and all the people that worked with him - every generation since then has benefitted from having this place set aside for them. The 100th anniversary will be an opportunity to celebrate that vision."

David Nimkin of the National Parks Conservation Association said new protections for the park helped solidify Mills' vision.

"The fact that Rocky Mountain National Park benefitted from congressional action to have virtually all of it recognized as wilderness is just a wonderful present on sustaining the park in its natural form in perpetuity," Nimkin said.