This Saturday (9/22) is the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, a celebration of the special connection between people and nature, volunteerism, and the numerous educational, recreational and health benefits derived from the great outdoors.

Here’s how you can take part:

  • Visit any National Park Service (NPS) site free of charge.
  • Sign up for one of the hundreds of volunteer events across the country.
  • Share your outdoor adventures on social media with the hashtags #NPSVolunteer, #FindYourPark and #NPLD.

This year’s observance—organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture, Army, and the Interior—is putting a special focus on the resilience and restoration of our public lands.

The theme could not be more fitting. There is a nearly $12 billion national parks maintenance backlog, as critical repairs to trails, water lines, bathroom facilities, and other infrastructure remain unaddressed.

These maintenance needs can pose a safety risk, and sections of parks are often closed to visitors for an undetermined amount of time. Visitors come from all over the world to see our incomparable national parks, but unresolved maintenance issues have the potential to hurt visitation numbers and cause a devastating ripple effect in gateway communities.  

In 2016, 331 million visitors to NPS lands spent an estimated $18 billion in gateway communities, which supported 306,000 jobs and generated more than $35 billion in national economic output. Our public lands are not only rich in culture and history; they are economically essential to the regions in which they are located.

It is crucial that Congress solve this ever-growing problem by passing the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 6510). The bill, which just passed the House Committee on Natural Resources last week, would establish a dedicated source of federal funding for the NPS to help address its maintenance needs, and ensure the viability of our parks for generations to come.

Head out to a public park on Saturday and be reminded of why we must do all that we can to protect and maintain these unique national treasures. Bring your gardening gloves and pitch in—or simply kick back, enjoy the last day of summer and soak in the beauty of our public lands.