From April 20 to 28, a total of 417 national parks throughout the United States, including the CNMI’s own American Memorial Park in Garapan, are being celebrated as part of National Park Week.
That celebration intends to focus on the natural and cultural heritage and recreational opportunities that national parks provide to different communities, said AMP ranger Brooke Nevitt.
National parks have been around for over 100 years, she said, and each one tells a unique story and have a special place in the country’s story.
“At AMP, our mission is to honor the American and Marianas people who died here during World War II,” she said.
Every park has its own mission, said Nevitt. Some are focused on natural resources; others on what makes a specific place unique and special.
“Ours is really focused on the history and telling the story of what happened during World War II,” Nevitt said.
The American Memorial Park was established in 1978 on a 133-acre land surrounded by Micro Beach on the west side and Mt. Tapochao on the east side. The property includes a 30-acre protected wetland and mangrove forest.
The 5,204 names of American and Marianas people who fought in the war are inscribed on a memorial that was dedicated at the 50th anniversary of the Saipan invasion, when American forces wrested the CNMI from Japanese control.
Picnic sites, walkways, playgrounds have also been made available at the park.
“AMP has grown and has gone through a lot of changes over the years and we are happy to be telling the community and visitors about the rich history of Saipan and the Marianas.
“Our exhibit is a self-guided exhibit. …Parts of our exhibits are from different places, as some are reproductions, like our printed items that were used and available during wartime,” Nevitt said.
Some of the items in the AMP museum are on loan from the CNMI Museum. “It varies depending on what it is. …After [Super Typhoon] Soudelor [in 2015], our theater was destroyed so it was shut down for a while. …It has been fixed and our theater is open and we welcome the community to watch our park’s films,” she said.
The AMP theater is also available for the community to use for different events.
As part of National Park Week, the AMP will be showing movies of other national parks in the United States as it can be hard to go off island and go to these 417 national parks. The featured films are about national parks in Alaska, Ellis Island, California, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Washington and Ohio.
Aside from managing the museum, theater and the park, AMP has different programs throughout the year that is done in partnership with the Pacific Historic Parks.
“…Pacific Historic Parks runs the bookstore in the museum and the money that comes from their sales helps fund education programs at the park,” Nevitt said.
One of those programs is “Art in the Park,” which is held from March to April. The park brings in artists to share their craft with the community. All the materials are available free of charge for people who sign up.
“We don’t charge for any of our programs here,” said Nevitt.
In the summer, the park has its Junior Ranger Camp and a youth program called “Soldier Skills.”
There is also the “Every Kid in the Park” program during the school year, which the AMP holds in partnership with the Pacific Historic Parks. The program entails bringing all fourth graders to the park, using a grant from the National Park Foundation to fund the buses to bring the students to the AMP.
The Pacific Historic Parks is a non-profit organization that runs all the educational programs at the park and funds community events there.
“We create educational programs connected to what the Public School System and private schools are [teaching] in class, so we do field trips, ‘Art in the Park,’ Junior Ranger, or other educational and community programs,” said Pacific History Parks education specialist Jovannalyn Mafnas Moses.
Nevitt said that they want the community to maximize what the AMP has to offer. “We invite everyone to come to the park as we really want people…using our recreational areas because that’s part of the reason why we are here.
“We want a safe and inviting space for the community to use and, at the same time, we are here to fulfill our mission to tell the story of WW II and the CNMI’s role in it,” she added.
Nevitt describes her role at AMP as her “dream job,” saying she has always wanted to work at the park.
“I grew up on Saipan. I grew up coming to the park and loving it. I always thought, ‘Is there any cooler job than being a park ranger?’ And here I am. I love history and passionate about conserving our natural environment and so this is a great place to be,” she added.
AMP is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. They welcome volunteers. For more information call (670)234-7207.