June 7, 2023


It's time to think about Travel.

The National Parks: An Embodiment of Democracy


There were no national parks in just the variety of my traveling abilities when I was increasing up. I did not genuinely know what a countrywide park was. The phrases did not evoke any kind of picture within just my expertise. I in no way frequented just one until I was an grownup. It took me a prolonged time to discover to appreciate what a excellent detail the nationwide parks are.

I have to credit rating the Ken Burns-Dayton Duncan film “The Countrywide Parks: America’s Greatest Idea” for opening my eyes to the whole magnitude of that strategy. I was fairly considerably convinced of the truth of their thesis, that the National Parks really could be “America’s Finest Thought,” immediately after the founding of the region and the formulation of democracy by itself.

In an interview, Duncan said, “I will make the argument that the countrywide parks is our best idea. And the purpose is mainly because it is really an expression of the Declaration of Independence used to the landscape, which is that the most stunning, most majestic, and, I would say, sacred destinations in our country should be established aside not for royalty or the loaded or the effectively connected, as it had been in all recorded heritage, but for every person and for all time.”

Right now the idea has been picked up all in excess of the environment. The Global Union for Conservation of Nature counts a lot more than 4,000 national parks. And that is excellent for the whole earth. It means that several of the most stunning destinations will be preserved for the reward of all people. It is a deserving aspiration towards a higher amount of society than one that just allows exploiters operate roughshod about almost everything.

The National Parks

The film grew out of Dayton Duncan’s deep passion for the nationwide parks considering the fact that his childhood. Duncan has labored with Ken Burns on nearly each movie, either as a guide, writer or producer, heading back again to The Civil War. But it seems very clear to me, from watching interviews with him, that the film about the nationwide parks was a unique preferred for him, and an intensely personal vision.

The nationwide parks have been just one of the most profound passions of his life. The film was a opportunity for him to set that passion into a cinematic expression. His really like for the parks is infectious. The movie series gained two Emmy awards, but even additional importantly, I imagine, its extensive viewership when it arrived out in 2009 was followed by a surge of attendance at the Nationwide Parks.

I suppose the sequence motivated quite a few others the way it did me. I was definitely taken by the thought that the national parks are the theory of democracy expressed in the landscape alone.

Duncan mentioned that the plan arrived from author and historian Wallace Stegner, who wrote an write-up in 1983 identified as “The Finest Strategy We At any time Had: An Overview.” In it he wrote, “National parks are the greatest plan we at any time had. Unquestionably American, definitely democratic, they mirror us at our very best rather than our worst.”

Stegner himself credits James Bryce, a British Ambassador, with coining the phrase. And there may well be other respectable statements to staying the initially to articulate the notion. But, as with so numerous matters, finding the “first” is in all probability unachievable. Beginnings are inclined to fade into the mist of the previous. But that speaks to the universality of the plan.

In a 1990 write-up in which Stegner credits Bryce for the phrase, he also acknowledges that “The tracing of ideas is a guessing sport. We just can’t tell who first had an notion we can only notify who 1st experienced it influentially….”

The concept behind the national parks seems to have come from the population by itself, a spontaneously arising movement to secure the most lovely places from exploitative destruction. That much too speaks to it as an expression of democracy. The notion appears to have worked its way up to the governmental agencies that could enact guidelines to codify it.

It emerged out of a increasing recognition that those wonderful spots out west would before long be overrun and possibly desecrated. It’s an encouraging instance of how people who believe passionately in a little something can essentially make a distinction, even in the encounter of highly effective forces against them.

The origin of the national parks on their own is also not straightforward to pinpoint. The web site of the National Park Service states, “Artist George Catlin, for the duration of an 1832 vacation to the Dakotas, was maybe the initial to recommend a novel alternative to this quick-approaching actuality.”

Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness were being all in risk, wrote Catlin, until they could be preserved “by some excellent preserving coverage of government… in a outstanding park… A nation’s Park, containing guy and beast, in all the wild[ness] and freshness of their nature’s beauty!

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt were being all instrumental in the growth of a nationwide park procedure. It’s a lengthy and intricate background. We are fortunate that the concept has managed to survive the political method and to development as nicely as it has

When I traveled to some of the excellent national parks of the American West, I obtained the feeling that the idea fundamental the parks is shared in typical by the persons who show up at the park. Undoubtedly, they haven’t all viewed the Ken Burns movie. But someway there appeared to be an unspoken sharing of the ideals.

It struck me especially when I was in Zion Countrywide Park, but the very same was true of all the parks I frequented. Men and women feel to share a kind of reverence for the spot, for the surroundings.

The name Zion refers to a hill in the town of Jerusalem, but it is also defined a lot more generally as “holy place” or “kingdom of heaven.” As soon as I expert Zion, I understood why it was referred to as that. It is an astonishingly beautiful place, with colossal mountains and steep cliffs, abundant working drinking water flowing in crystal clear streams. I got a robust perception between the persons browsing that they appreciated that transcendent beauty and honored the space as a type of holy position – a secular spirituality that produces a widespread floor for folks of varying religions to meet on.

I was really moved by the spirit of camaraderie I felt and noticed there amid men and women who have been of course from numerous distinct states and countries and ethnic backgrounds. But the gorgeous landscape, and a shared reverence towards it united all people in an unspoken pact.

The way individuals addressed some others, with kindness and respect, was a revelation. It was as if the reverence for the organic magnificence infused our relationships with every single other. It did come to feel like a holy spot. And it felt great.

Could that have existed without the need of the development of the nationwide parks? I question it. There experienced to be an formal proclamation that established apart this land to safeguard it from all those who would not honor its elegance and see it as a sacred location.

A further matter the movie designed clear was that it was often a struggle. The protection of all those spots so that they have survived in fantastic form up to the time when we could love them is a great blessing. It is not one thing I choose for granted.

But I am way at the rear of. I’ve frequented countrywide parks in Africa, Australia, Scotland, Jordan and other sites. And however there are so a lot of in my personal place that I have not observed. I require to attempt to make up for that blank place in my existence tale.

Your humble reporter,

Colin Treadwell


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