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National Park Service Turns 97

Courtesy Wind Cave National Park

 The National Park Service turns 97 this Sunday. All Americans are being invited to visit their nearby national parks for special events that are taking place from coast-to-coast.

From kite-building demonstrations at Wright Brothers National Memorial, to a river paddle at New River Gorge National River to a scenic railroad ride at Steamtown National Historic Site, America’s national parks offer something for the whole family.

Here in South Dakota, Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park are offering free tours of their world renowned subterranean passages, while Badlands National Park is offering free admission to tour its trails and scenic byways.

Of course, visiting national parks gives on the opportunity to meet rangers like Don Frankfort, who’s been a seasonal employee at Wind Cave for 46 years.

What brought Don here in the first place?

“I’m from New York City,” he advises. “This is the nearest place I could find parking.”

On a more serious note, Frankfort says once he came to work at Wind Cave he was hooked. Some 5000 tours later, Frankfort says he still feels the same and works to share that feeling with each visitor.

“So even though I may be doing this tour for the five thousand and first time, the visitors who are with me have never seen the cave before,” Don explains. “So I have to be as enthusiastic about the cave as if it were my first time.”

Frankfort explains that the goal of the National Park Service and its employees is to preserve the country’s national and natural treasures.

“So that people can see them year-after-year, especially the future generations,,” Don comments. “So that the stories may be told and shared with our descendants.”

Don Frankfort says there are 401 units in the national park system with more than 20,000 employees who are all celebrating their birthday on August 25.