ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – One hundred years ago, on September 4, 1915, Colorado celebrated the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park. On Friday, hundreds of people gathered to honor the park’s centennial and rededicate its federally protected lands, with an eye toward the future.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Cory Gardner, and former Sen. Mark Udall were among the crowd of park rangers, supporters and students who gathered for a ceremony at Glacier Basin. The program included music, speeches from park leaders and officials, and the announcement of a rededication resolution, recently passed by the U.S. Senate through the work of Gardner and fellow Sen. Michael Bennet.

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

“It totally transports you,” Hickenlooper said, of the park and its views of Colorado’s alpine terrain. “It relaxes you in a way that almost nothing else can.”

Speaking to the crowd about the park, Hickenlooper talked of the importance of protecting Colorado’s natural beauty and making sure it’s accessible, especially for children.

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

Statistics show 70 percent of children in U.S. have never been to a state or national park, said Hickenlooper, “We’re trying to reverse that trend in Colorado.”

The park’s popularity is growing. Overall visitation is up more than 20 percent this year over last, said Kyle Patterson, public affairs officer for the park. In 2014, more than 3.4 million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1915, the park’s first year, 31,000 people visited.

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

In honor of the anniversary, park leaders are asking people to recommit themselves to preserving Rocky, and Colorado’s other national parks.

“These places… deserve to be honored, and have every right to our unwavering commitment, our willingness to recommit ourselves to making sure that we are committed to protecting and re-protecting America’s most sacred natural lands,” Hickenlooper said.

The event was the culmination of a year’s worth of events honoring the park’s 100th anniversary.

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

Rocky Mountain National Park 100th Anniversary (credit: CBS)

According to the National Park Service’s website: “Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times. In a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!”

Lauren DiSpirito is CBS4’s Northern Newsroom reporter. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.

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