The spotlight’s on our National Parks this week as National Geographic’s current issue pays tribute to our redwoods and Ken Burns’ “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea” six-part series began Sunday night. I watched the first episode twice because I was amazed by how much I didn’t know about the history of our National Parks. I say “our” to emphasize the genuine sense of ownership that I’m feeling now.
It was right here in California in 1864 that the idea “that our most magnificent natural wonders should be owned by all of us and preserved by all of us” became reality when Yosemite Valley was set aside as park land establishing the model for the future National Park System. “For the first time in human history,” Burns says, “land was set aside not for the pleasure of kings and noblemen and the very, very rich, but for everybody, for all time.”
Think about it. This land is your land, this land is my land. We are stakeholders in these parks. The parks are not merely “public lands.” They can be your back yard, your summer home, your Saturday adventure, your meditation room and the family vacation you’ll never forget.
In August 1995 a visit to Glacier National Park gave me the opportunity to spend a week with my youngest son against a backdrop of nature in its purest form. Dana was 13 and had just studied the National Parks in school. My parents took me to the Grand Canyon when I was his age and I had loved it, so I wanted to do the same for him.