We arrived at the Yosemite Visitor’s Center just as employees hung the 2016 National Park Service Centennial Celebration Banner. This was the fourth and final stop on a trip that began in San Francisco and included Sequoia, The Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite. It was a wonderful time to spend with family learning all about the National Park System in the United States. We estimated that 60 to 70% of visitors were International travelers. We also noted that many of the US travelers were discussing destinations close to home that included The Grove Park Inn and Biltmore Estate.
I will share insights from the trip in a couple of different posts as we near the actual park anniversary of August 25. But for this post I want to share direct excerpts from a book that I highly recommend spending some time with. Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears by Heather Hansen highlights the attributes and growth pains that the NPS both endured and exacted upon others… the successes and the struggles. There is something that will be near to everyone’s heart in this book as National Parks stretch across the entire US. This is a view of the growth and change process at a 100-year vantage point. For the Eastern region, it details the land procurement issues of tracts that were already settled by mountain people. It looks at the two distinctly differing points of view between land owners and the government. As a reader, I gained more understanding about how this region is what it is today and was ultimately left with the knowledge that above all it is a place of Appalach-I-CANs.
Enjoy what I’m sharing but consider purchasing the book through the National Parks Bookstore. Though the site is not very user friendly, “The purchases you make at a National Park Cooperating Association sales outlet help support many interpretive, educational, and visitor service programs at individual parks…” that you love. Hansen reminds us that “Economically speaking…For every tax dollar invested in the NPS, $10 is returned to the US economy via spending in gateway communities, to the tune of nearly $27 billion generated and hundreds of thousands of jobs supported annually.”
In the Foreword, the Director of the National Park Service, Jonathon Jarvis, begins by stating “MANY THINGS SEEM to divide us as a nation….” Midway through, he reflects that “In 1970, Congress… stat[ed] that national parks are ‘cumulative expressions of a single national heritage.'” He concludes “Like this book, we tell stories through place, places where this nation and its ambitions were forged in the hottest fires, places where people acted upon their convictions for conservation, for civil rights, for the future of our children’s children. At the dawn of the park system’s second century, let these stories and places inspire us all to rise to new challenges with purpose and pride inspired by our national parks.”I made notes and highlights all through my copy of the book as I reflected on whose idea this was, the psyche of the nation, the perspectives and misunderstandings that were conveyed about people, wildlife, economics and environmental management. In all, I believe the theme of the NPS aligns with every other human institution. It’s what we do – the action that we take – when we make mistakes, and have accomplishments that builds our humanity.