JOSHUA TREE, Calif. - Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park will be free today as the park celebrate its 75th anniversary.
``This is an historic occasion for the park, and we wanted to do everything possible to make the public feel welcome and to encourage their participation in Joshua Tree National Park's 75th birthday,'' Superintendent Mark Butler said.
Several events will take place today to mark the anniversary:
8 a.m. - Ceremony at park headquarters, 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms. Speakers include National Park Service Associate Regional Director for Park Operations Martha Lee and Joshua Tree Park Superintendent Mark Butler. Winners of the Joshua Tree National Park 75th Anniversary Photo Contest will be announced. An unveiling of the recently re-painted ``Spirit of the Desert'' mural by Washington artist Cory Ench is also planned.
11:00 a.m. - Exhibit opening, Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree. Music industry creative director Gary Burden, a Grammy winner, will be on hand for the opening of an exhibit of photos taken at Joshua Tree by Burden and music photographer Henry Diltz.
1 p.m. - 75th anniversary speakers. Copper Mountain College, the Bell Center, 6162 Rotary Way, Joshua Tree. Bill Wade, retired National Park Service superintendent and past president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and Emilyn Sheffield, Department of Recreation, Chico State University, will speak.
3:30 p.m. - Book signing. Joshua Tree Visitor Center. Tyler Nordgren, author of Stars Above, Earth Below, A Guide to the Astronomy of the National Parks, will sign copies of his book.
7 p.m. - Dinner in the Desert. Sacred Sands Bed & Breakfast Retreat, 63155 Quail Springs Road, Joshua Tree. The event is sold out.
7:30 p.m. - Native American cultural performance. Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. The Cahuilla Bird Singers will highlight the culture and lifeways of the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla people.
9 p.m. - Night sky presentation. Hidden Valley Day Use Area, Joshua Tree National Park. Nordgren, a professor of physics at the University of Redlands, will talk about viewing the night skies in national parks. Telescopes will be available.
Although park entrance is free, normal camping fees and other user fees will be collected today.
Joshua Tree National Monument became part of the national park system Aug. 10, 1936, with the signing of a presidential proclamation by President Franklin Roosevelt. The area became a national park when the Desert Protection Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 31, 1994.