quarta-feira, 6 de outubro de 2010

Why National Parks (and visiting them) Matter - Monday, September 27, 2010

Why National Parks (and visiting them) Matter

Monday, September 27, 2010

I should give some background information. I grew up in a small town on about 5 acres of land accessible only by gravel roads and surrounded by farm fields. We had a huge garden, a barn, a horse, a few dogs and barn cats. Now, that same area is one of the fastest growing sprawl sites in the country and my former yard has about six houses on it…but I digress. I give this background because I grew up rural. Like, out there. I was always outside. Exploring, riding my bike, playing in the fields, riding the horse…anything to be outside. My parents always were outside with us and our “trips” always consisted of being outdoors, experiencing nature. My mom would tell stories of the Native Americans and gray wolves to help us learn appreciation for things that were different from us yet still incredibly valuable. It was an amazing way to grow up…something I am more grateful of as each year passes by.

Even with the strong appreciation of nature that was instilled in my sister and I growing up, we didn’t take many vacations. I was not aware of National Parks until I was a little older and we did school projects about them. I didn’t become really involved with National Parks until just recently. They are now very important places to me. Even to the ones I have not seen. I feel a sense of ownership and stewardship because they are mine…as they are yours, as they are everyone’s. That’s why National Parks matter. It’s simple really. Stephen T. Mather, the first National Parks System (NPS) Director, said it best,

“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.... The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona." (adapted from the National Park System website) Now that's a wonderful notion.

The first National Park was Yellowstone, created by an Act of Congress in the year eighteen hundred and seventy two. Now there are more than 300 parks, recreation areas, historical monuments, seashores and other NPS properties in the system. Many advocates along the way helped to make this happen and it usually always entailed a fight. I have heard the average visit to Grand Canyon (the one park, President Theodore Roosevelt said every American should see) is just 3.5 hours. 3.5 hours. Wow. And, some people never see a National Park in their lifetime even for an hour. To me, that’s a tragedy.

It can be argued that the parks system is a waste of essential tax payer money in these difficult economic times for our country. Some states are even considering closing state parks due to financial burdens and failing budgets. That, too, is a travesty, in my opinion. Now, more than ever, we need to be outside, embracing all the blessings that entails. In our busy, hectic, concrete-dependent lives, we need to carve out some time to just be.

To just enjoy the present.

To just take a deep breath of fresh air.

To just get away.

To gain a new perspective.

To reflect and come back renewed.

I challenge everyone to embrace their National Parks. As Wallace Stegner said about the parks,

“(they) are absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” (adapted from the National Park System website)

My husband and I have taken this challenge. Anytime we go on vacation now, we try to check out a National Park property nearby. This summer we’ve been to Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Great Smoky National Park and Cape Cod National Seashore. Each one provided a renewing and rewarding experience. I was able to wander, explore, push my physical limitations, strengthen my spirituality and really just slow down and be present, in the now.

As I work in my day-to-day life, I see people wound so tight. I often hear them say, “Something is wrong, someone is to blame, everything sucks.” Those people have grown hard…they’ve been away from nature too long as Chief Luther Bear from the Lakota Sioux tribe says. We all need open, wild spaces to reconnect to who we are. (I think this is true even if you don’t love to be outdoors because of nature’s healing qualities).

So, National Parks matter. Maybe differently to everyone, but matter they do. Take the opportunity to visit the lands you own, that your ancestors owned, that your children’s children are yet to own. Embrace their healing winds, surround yourself with wonder, get away and just be.

I am glad I did. And, I am glad for people like John Muir who fought for the parks. I am glad for presidents who support this great idea, like Theodore Roosevelt (who initiated the NPS) and Barack Obama (who is reenergizing the people around the parks with the America's Great Outdoors Initiative -you can also find this on Facebook to get updates and information about the initiative). I am glad for my parents instilling in me a love for wild places and appreciation for being outdoors. I am glad for my national parks. I hope you are too.

For more information, click on the links in the post; check out The National Parks Conservation Association - www.npca.org and/or watch the documentary by Ken Burns--The National Parks: America's Best Idea


Fonte: Tegan


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