Saturday, August 27, 2016

The National Park Service Turns 100

Yes, one of the most valuable and noble programs of the federal government is celebrating it's 100th anniversary, although I missed it by a couple of days.

This marks 100 years since it was established, which means, of course, that it will be celebrating it's centennial one year from today.

Last year at this time, I had just taken my son to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert.

This year, we just got back from another western trip just yesterday. This time, we revisited the Grand Canyon (although we did the North Rim this time around), as well as Yosemite National Park and Mesa Verde. Just some incredibly beautiful parks, and I for one am appreciative of these lands at least having been preserved by past generations for us to enjoy. It is our duty to preserve these lands for future generations to enjoy, as well.

I have to admit that I thought about Theodore Roosevelt while at the Grand Canyon last year, and reflected a little bit on his words and his actions. He was such a strange president, albeit a unique one. There are things that I strongly admire about the man, such as his foresight with regards to conservation and protecting open spaces from development and destruction. Also, his populist, anti-corporate message resounds with me.

This year, it was hard not to think about him. There was a whole plaque at the North Rim a the Grand Canyon dedicated to him, and the book of John Muir's works that I was reading while at Yosemite had a prominent picture of Muir meeting with Roosevelt. That meeting helped to establish Yosemite as a national park, as well. And at Mesa Verde, I even asked the guide if Theodore Roosevelt had ever visited this site. Indeed, he had.

Yet, I also remember his tendency towards empiricism, and how he was all for starting wars to expand the American empire, and this is a huge turn off. Frankly, this spirit is a large part of the reason, if not the main reason, why the world is in such dire straits today.

Still, as I understand it, he did come to regret this aggressive, militaristic attitude late in life, after the outbreak of World War I, when it had a huge and very personal impact on his life.

Be that as it may, one great thing that he did do was help to establish the National Parks Service. It protects millions of acres of land, protecting it from potential development and the destructiveness of human activity, even though it seems that these are still constant threats today.

So, with that in mind, today I recognize the greatness of this landmark achievement, and the significant foresight of those who helped to bring this vision to a reality, and perhaps particularly embodied in the person of Theodore Roosevelt. The National Parks Services is, to me, undeniably one of the better and more noble aspects of the often discredited federal government, and it celebrates a birthday today.

I celebrated this anniversary the best way that I know how last year: by taking my son to visit one of the many beautiful national parks that this country is blessed with, and to try and both learn the lessons that these offer, and to try and impart those same lessons of respect and reverence for the land to my son.

This year, we had to take a flight out to Dallas, and this occupied to much of the day to realistically hope to visit one of the national parks. Hell, I did not even get to post this on time.

However, we did visit three national parks this year (four, if you include Morristown's Washington headquarters). Each one has opened our eyes and our sense of wonder, and I, for one, am very appreciative and grateful for these parks, and our chance to visit them.

Here is a toast to honor America's National Parks system!

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