Laura Bush to attend Zion park celebration
KANAB - First lady Laura Bush plans to exchange the hectic world of politics and the confines of the White House for the towering beauty of Zion National Park later this month, where she will take part in the rededication of the park's historic nature center.
The White House Press Office said Friday the first lady will be in Utah's busiest national park on April 29 for the 2 p.m. ceremony for the center that underwent renovations beginning in 2005 to make the building usable year-round.
President Bush is not expected to accompany his wife on her trip to Utah.
The announcement of her visit was in conjunction with a declaration by President Bush on Friday making this Sunday through April 29 National Park Week
In making the announcement, the president mentioned the National Park Centennial Initiative his administration has proposed to raise up to a billion dollars from citizens, private business and government by the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.
The money would be used for conservation and preservation programs and other improvements designed to take the roughly 400 national parks into a new century.
A recent meeting in St. George of officials from several area parks and monuments in southern Utah and Arizona was held to get input from residents on what should be done to improve the parks.
The president said because of her involvement in the Park Service's Junior Rangers Program - designed to get children interested in the parks - and the National Park Foundation, Laura Bush and others will work to "expand access to the riches of our parks."
Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said Friday that his office is meeting with the Secret Service in the park on Tuesday to discuss security details of Bush's trip.
"We're excited," said Smith. "We're looking forward to the visit. It should be exciting and fun to have a member of the first family here."
Smith, who received a letter earlier this week informing him of the visit, said he could not talk much about the visit for security reasons.
He did say that Bush is expected to spend several days in the southwestern Utah park that is noted for some of the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world.
"I don't know if she'll be camping or what she will be doing," said Smith.
He cannot recall a president or any other member of a current first family visiting the county.
"We've never had anyone of this magnitude before," said Smith.
The nature center she will help rededicate was built by the Utah Parks Company in 1934.
Ron Terry, chief of interpretive programs in the park, said the center is one of the park's older buildings and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 1974, the building has been used as a nature center and a summer children's program called Zion Nature School that in 1986 became the Junior Rangers Program.
Because the building lacked insulation and heating, the building was used only part of the year.
The improvements mean the building will now accommodate education programs and other park functions any time of the year.
Renovations, completed in 2006, have included structural repairs and the addition of heating, cooling and electrical systems.
Some new windows, restÂrooms and accessibility have also been installed in addition to new landscaping.
Dean Cox, chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, said he would like the party to do something in recognition of the first lady's visit, but was not sure Friday what that might be.
"After meeting with the Secret Service next Tuesday, we'll know better if we'll be able to plan something," said Cox. "It's awfully neat for southern Utah to get a visit like this."
By the President of the United States of America
Americans take great pride in our country's natural beauty, and our Nation is blessed to have a park system of more than 80 million acres that belongs to us all. During National Park Week, we underscore our dedication to conserving these national treasures, and we pay tribute to the dedicated employees and volunteers of the National Park Service who care for them.
Established in 1916, the National Park Service now oversees a National Park System that has grown to include almost 400 sites, with parks in nearly every State. These parks protect beautiful landscapes, tell important stories about our country's past, and encourage our citizens to conserve our natural environment and celebrate our national history. They are places to learn, exercise, and spend time with family and friends. Through her work with the Junior Rangers and the National Park Foundation, First Lady Laura Bush and others are working to expand access to the riches of our parks.
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, my Administration has launched the National Parks Centennial Initiative. The initiative calls upon government, the private sector, and our citizenry to share in an effort to help prepare our parks for another century of conservation, preservation, and enjoyment. We will work to enhance park habitats, expand visitor services, increase educational opportunities, implement new technologies, and hire additional seasonal park rangers. By maintaining and improving our park system, we can ensure that our national parks will thrive for the next 100 years and beyond.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 22 through April 29, 2007, as National Park Week. This year's theme is "Your National Parks: Explore, Learn, and Protect." I invite all my fellow citizens to join me in celebrating America's national parks by visiting these wonderful spaces, discovering all they have to offer, and becoming active participants in park conservation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH