Swiftcurrent Lake

The sun sets on Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park

WEST GLACIER – Glacier National Park has stuck 100 candles in so many cakes in the past six years that some folks may feel they’ve been “centennialed” to death.

Now, with the federal agency that oversees it turning 100 years old this summer, the park has yet another birthday to prepare for.

This celebration, however, will be low-key and spread out, both chronologically and geographically.

“It’s going to be a little different than what most people expect,” says Andrew Lahr, the park’s centennial volunteer ambassador. “Most probably expect a large-scale event on the 25th of August, but we’re trying to avoid directing a bunch of people to one spot at the same time.”

Aug. 25, 1916, is the day President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act that created the National Park Service.

Thirty-five national parks, including Glacier, had already been established by the time Congress got around to creating an agency designed specifically to oversee them.

Glacier celebrated its own centennial in 2010. That was followed by centennials for Glacier Park Lodge and Sperry Chalet in 2013, Lake McDonald Lodge in 2014, and Many Glacier Hotel and Granite Park Chalet last year.

Now it’s the park service’s turn.

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The latest centennial won’t be ignored. Indeed, it is very much on the minds of park supervisors, who know the national publicity surrounding it could help bring record crowds into Glacier for the third consecutive year.

But there will be some interesting events this summer that Glacier will tie to the NPS birthday.

“We’ll be ‘centennial-izing’ a lot of things,” Lahr said.

You’ll have to cover some ground to take advantage of one of the park’s most significant nods to the NPS milestone.

Two interpretive rangers will live and work out of remote Goat Haunt this summer, a place that hasn’t had interpretive rangers since the Glacier centennial in 2010. Getting there requires either a two-day hike, or departing the United States and boarding a boat.

Goat Haunt is at the southern tip of Upper Waterton Lake, just south of the Canadian border. The boat tours leave from the Canadian side of the line, in Waterton Lakes National Park.

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This summer, a “social influencer” will spend time in Glacier and spread the word, and photographs, about his or her experiences via social media during a three-day artist residency.

“It will be someone who already has millions of followers,” Lahr says, crediting the idea to Jacob Frank, Glacier’s social media specialist.

For six days, starting July 5, 30 bicyclists will embark on Glacier Ride, and pedal between 170 and 270 miles through Glacier and Waterton, depending on routes the riders choose. The ride is sponsored by the Glacier Conservancy and Climate Ride of Missoula, and will raise funds to support sustainable and renewable energy projects at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.

Speaking of climate, the University of Montana’s CoMotion Dance Project will collaborate with the park and the U.S. Geological Survey to create an interactive dance presentation based on climate change that will be performed in the park from July 24-30.

The idea is to expand climate change teaching tools beyond the traditional reading and lecturing methods.

In May, July and August, citizens will be invited to take part in National Park BioBlitz events in Glacier, co-sponsored by National Geographic. People will locate and identify as many plant, animal and fungi species as they can in a specific period of time.

And when four artists in residence set up easels in Glacier Park this summer, they will produce works with a centennial theme, Lahr said.

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Save for the interpretive rangers at Goat Haunt and the BioBlitz, most of this summer’s events would be taking place no matter whether it was the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.

“It will be a low-key centennial here,” Lahr says. “We’re adding a centennial twist to things without adding a lot of centennial events.”

Locally, the park has stepped up its outreach into communities in the region, Lahr says, specifically because of the park service birthday.

Glacier has had a presence at events such as the Whitefish Winter Carnival and the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation in Kalispell. It was at the Northwest Montana Fair last year, and plans an expanded presence this year.

“Because we are Glacier, and are something of a canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change, we’re pushing a message of sustainability in our outreach,” Lahr says.

Lahr, a 2015 graduate of Rutgers University, works for the Student Conservation Association. His job as centennial volunteer ambassador is essentially an internship, he says, and, of course, temporary.

It comes to an end shortly after the NPS birthday on Aug. 25.

Then, Glacier should get a reprieve from centennials. The park’s next major one won’t happen for 17 years, when Going-to-the-Sun Road turns 100 years old in 2033.

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