Earth Day celebration offers fun for all ages this weekend

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - This weekend, fun and educational activities abound at the Grand Canyon National Park in celebration of Earth Day.

Not only that, the park will then join other national parks across the country in waiving its entrance fees on April 22 to 26.

The Earth Day festivities begin this Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a free screening of the film "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time" in the Grand Canyon Visitor Center theater.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Shrine of the Ages, Grand Canyon's Green Team will present environmental author Mary Ellen Hannibal. During her talk, Hannibal will explore the critical nature of wildlife corridors, review the history of America's native habitats found within national parks, and share what scientists are doing to combat the gradual loss of these important lands.

On Sunday, the National Park Service (NPS) is putting on an open-house style Earth Day celebration at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The celebration will include educational activities, demonstrations and games, samples, and information on local and national environmental initiatives. The day will conclude with a walk and trash pick-up along the rim at 2:30 p.m. Organizers welcome anyone who would like to volunteer. Every activity is family friendly and free.

National Park Week's fee free entry

National Park Week's fee free days begin April 22. NPS allows visitors to enter the park free of charge until April 26. Those who plan to spend time in the park beyond April 26 will need to pay the regular entrance fee for the remainder of their stay.

"This year's National Park Week theme, 'Did you know...,' provides a fun way to discover the wonders of America's national parks," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said.

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said there are some wonderful "Did you knows..." based on the Grand Canyon.

"For instance, did you know the oldest rocks at Grand Canyon are estimated to be about 1.8 billion years old?" Uberuaga said. "Did you know Grand Canyon was once a designated forest reserve, and then a game preserve? Did you know that the oldest human artifact found at Grand Canyon is about 12,000 years old? The staff here at Grand Canyon National Park encourage everyone to take advantage of National Park Week to visit one of their national parks free of charge and see what 'Did you knows...' they can discover."

NPS rangers remind visitors that the fee-free designation applies to entrance fees only and does not affect fees for camping, reservations, tours or use of concessions. Park entrance stations will have Interagency Senior and Annual Passes available for those who wish to purchase them.

More about Grand Canyon's Earth Day celebrations may be obtained by contacting Green Team member Marty Martell at (928) 638-7834. Further information on National Park Week may be found by visiting www.nps.gov/npweek or www.nationalparkweek.org. More on the year's remaining national park fee-free days can be found by visiting www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

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