Today marks the 178th anniversary of the establishment of Hot Springs National Park. It’s also the middle of National Park Week 2010. In honor of these occasions, the U.S. Mint and the National Park Service (NPS) partnered to put the Arkansas park’s façade—actually, the front of its headquarters and its fountain—on a quarter. This special 25-cent piece kicks off the America the Beautiful Quarters™ Program, a partnership that will see coins commemorating five different national parks every year for the next dozen years.
It may seem odd to start with a lesser known place like Hot Springs, but actually, it’s the oldest national park, established
four decades before Yellowstone. And its namesake hot springs, whose water scientists say is 4,000 years old, draws plenty of visitors each year and provides 700,000 gallons of water daily.
Hot Springs-as-quarter is in good company for 2010. These four will also make appearances:
- Yellowstone. The coin for Wyoming’s 2.2-million acre park will feature Old Faithful geyser and a male bison.
- Yosemite. To honor the 750,000-acre California park, its quarter will show El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, according to the NPS.
- The Grand Canyon. A quarter representing this mile-deep, 18-mile wide natural wonder will showcase a view of several granaries near the Colorado River.
- Mount Hood National Forest. The quarter for this million-acre Oregon beauty will feature—you guessed it—Mount Hood and Lost Lake.
Wonder how these lucky sites got chosen to go first? Well, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner picked them, through collaboration with state governors, executives in each park’s jurisdiction, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (who worked with Audubon and several other environmental organizations on the 2010 State of the Birds Report, which came out in March).
It’s hard to believe, but the release of these new quarters follows closely on the heels of state quarters program, which started back in 1999. But it’s exciting and it seems fitting, considering the attention national parks have recently received with Ken Burns’ documentary this past fall (check out my review of the film and a Q&A with the filmmaker.) With any luck, highlighting these natural treasures will keep them in the public eye and up the motivation to preserve them.