This week marked the centennial celebration of the National Park Service (NPS). My family has a deep and abiding relationship with our National Parks, whom documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called “America’s Best Idea.”

Growing up, our summer vacations were most often spent at American historical locations. Many of these locations were part of the NPS as historical sites, monuments or battlefields.  Jamestown, Natchez, Vicksburg, Yorktown, The White House, Appomattox Court House. You get the idea. I grew up just south of the Buffalo National River and a few miles away from Central High School in Little Rock, one of the newest historic sites under the NPS. The national parks have always been part of my life, even when I didn’t realize it.

Jim at Yellowstone
Jim at Yellowstone NP

As a young adult, we began visiting the majesty of some of the larger wilderness parks that are a right of vacation passage for many families. The Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Petrified Forest were our first ventures into the many crown jewels of the NPS. My younger brother, Jim, was was captivated by these natural wonders and his enthusiasm rubbed off on us, though admittedly I was a late convert. After our Grand Canyon trip, he set his mind to visiting the other great national wilderness parks, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Glacier. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could make it to Glacier and Yosemite. We still went in honor of his memory and to heal from our great and sudden loss. I know he would laugh and be shocked to know that I now prefer hiking shoes to the stiletto heels he used to tease me about wearing!

After getting married, the parks have continued to be part of our vacation pilgrimages. We have been to Glacier Bay and Chilkoot Trail/ Klondike Gold Rush Park in Alaska and Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We have visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

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The National Park Service, whether a scenic byway, historic monument or natural preserve, is part of our national identity and environmental landscape. The NPS is the guardian and storyteller of our nation’s triumphs, our failures and our wilderness. They are our personal connection to our forefathers, our brilliant leaders and visionaries.

Yet, it goes beyond even that. As the parks are in my family, they are also part of the immediate history of other American families. They’ve contributed to years of family bonding and developing my personal identity and worldview. They’ve created precious memories of my brother and parents. They have been our retreat and our solace. They’ve challenged me physically in hiking numerous trails and climbing to its peaks; mentally in interpreting our complex and rich history.

The National Parks are a member of the family. The parks are America’s soul.

In an interview with NationalParksTraveler.com, Ken Burns eloquently stated,”For the first time in human history, land was set aside not for kings, or nobleman or the rich but for everyone and for all time.” He goes on to say, “But in the course of use we begin to understand that these places stand in for ideas that we begin to save. Just like America. It’s the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape.”

The National Parks are a member of the family. The parks are America’s soul.

For the centennial birthday, I would like to thank the National Park Service for being part of my family. I hope the parks continue to be revered and enjoyed by all American
families and visitors to our country.  It is my hope that Americans will recognize the significance of these places and support them financially and by electing people who will not sell them out to corporations.

Glacier NP LOGAN PASS
Glacier National Park, MT- Logan Pass

In honor of the 100th birthday celebration, I will be donating $100 to the National Park Service Foundation, and hope you will consider making a donation as well. More than anything though, I hope you will go out and Find Your Park.

Happy researching!

#nps100 #findyourpark

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