The National Park Service received a gift on the eve of its 100th birthday: a huge tract of pristine land in the North Woods of Maine.

The 35,000 hectares were donated by the family of Roxanne Quimby, a co-founder of cosmetics company Burt’s Bees. The gift fulfills her goal of giving the land during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

President Obama designated the area as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on August 24. The land will be managed by the Park Service. In addition to the land, the family’s foundation included $20 million for the park to start operating.

The monument will offer the public a range of recreational activities, such as hiking, skiing and snowmobiling on mountainous ridges. Canoeing down rivers, visitors could spot a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, moose, salmon and Canada lynx.

“To have this landscape recognized in the same vein as Yellowstone and the Everglades and the Grand Canyon is a pretty powerful testament for just how remarkable the landscape is,” Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, said in an interview.

Rocky river surrounded by forest (© AP Images)
Mountains and rushing rivers make up a new national monument in the North Woods of Maine. (© AP Images)

Its designation as a national monument marks a first step to becoming a new national park, which requires an act of Congress. Maine’s famous Acadia National Park started the same way, when private citizens donated land that became a national monument in 1916. Acadia, which is smaller than Katahdin, drew almost 3 million visitors last year.

The National Park System has been called “America’s best idea” both because of its preservation of natural beauty as well as its openness to all. The National Park Service manages the country’s 59 national parks and 84 national monuments.

As it begins its second century, see how the service has helped inspire generations of Americans and visitors from around the world.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.

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