Having been inspired by the kindness and encouragement of park staff throughout the country, David wished to do more during his centennial celebration than just visit parks. He hoped to create something tangible as a “thank you” to all those who helped him on his tour.
While visiting a trail office in 2014, David noticed a framed collection hanging on the wall of rounded, triangular trail signs for the 30 trails in the National Trails System. Admiring the display, he wondered if it might be possible to do something similar for the parks.
In the summer of 2015, most park stores managed by the nonprofit organizations Eastern National Association and Western National Association, representing almost 250 locations around the country, began offering two sets of rectangular lapel pins themed for the Centennial and Find Your Park promotions. Each set features their respective logos on top and the park location on bottom. Collecting and framing a complete set of each pin style would be the project! David planned to offer these collections to the represented parks as a traveling exhibit before donating them to a permanent home in the parks.
There are 248 park locations across 46 states and territories represented among the 483 pins in the two collections. David visited all these locations in 2015-16 to collect these pins, most of them unavailable for sale on the internet. The 20-month project culminated in February 2017. In April 2017, Homestead National Monument of America became the first park to host the collections. They have appeared at ten parks or park-related locations as of April 2019. In addition to Homestead, the list includes Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Eastern National Association, Steamtown National Historic Site, Dayton Aviation National Historical Park and Greenbelt Park.
During the centennial journey, David visited eight Alaskan parks in June 2016. On a subsequent visit to his hometown, his 74-year-old mother complimented the pictures David shared for friends and family via social media and asked that he “sit down and write this story.” David agreed without taking the idea too seriously. Only months later did he see the year’s travels would include almost 400 parks. More importantly, he realized the story request originated from his mother’s wish to take her own journey through these places that she would never see in person. A literature review revealed that no one had written a narrative through all the National Park Service units. Thus, he committed to write the story of his grand adventure through the park system.
Originally intended to only describe his centennial travels, David extended the story with several chapters covering the last 23 parks visited in 2017 to make it inclusive of all the NPS units, all the national trails, over 40 national heritage areas and about 15 affiliated sites. Following the events through 2017 also allowed David to share the outcome of his professional situation, as well as the exhibit he created for the parks.