Documentary-film maker Ken Burns, in speaking about his 2009 project titled “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” reflected on the value of parks and public lands during a question-and-answer session to promote the film.
“You come to a national park and all of a sudden some of the barriers between people, between classes, even between nationalities are broken down and you share and have the experience of an essential, collective humanity. That’s a pretty good thing in a world whose major direction is sort of quisitive and extractive ? “What can I get out of things? What do I want? What’s in it for me?”
A collective humanity. That’s pretty good, I thought, sitting up even higher in my seat at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, where nearly 600 eager Ken Burns (and national parks) fans had gathered for this sneak preview. Burns held us captive for two hours through his authentic stories and sensitive words about why national parks are so important. Why they are us.
Since the release of National Parks in 2009, much has happened to tug at the concept of shared experiences; overscheduled families, increasing work loads, tighter budgets, politics, Facebook. What would happen, I wonder, if everyone took a “time out” and committed to visiting a national park this year?
The person standing next to you at a waterfall in Yellowstone National Park may support a different political party than you; the family speaking another language as they enjoy a picnic in Shenandoah National Park may be experiencing their first opportunity to freely and openly appreciate public lands; the grandparents ushering grandchildren to an evening interpretive presentation around the campfire in Olympic National Park may be savoring memories from years when they visited the same place with their own youngsters.
National parks are special. They connect us to the past and propel us toward the future, and show us that nature’s spaces are fragile, yet tenacious, supporting the physical, mental, and emotional health of humans despite our sometimes-bumbling behaviors.
2016 marks the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, an agency devoted to preserving and protecting landmarks, parks, and monuments for all time and for all people. The early ideas of John Muir, Stephen Mather, and Teddy Roosevelt translated into 84 million acres of identified park space, our park space, and it deserves all the fanfare we can muster, right?
Outdoor Families Magazine thinks so, and proclaims 2016 an opportunity to hear from readers about their most memorable national park experiences. Where have you visited, why, and what made you decide to go there? Each quarterly issue will feature a new national park feature or essay, and we welcome submissions.
We also want to celebrate our own anniversary as OFM enters a second year of publication, and what would a party be without presents? On January 15, your family has the opportunity to win a sunny, sandy, surf-y vacation for three to Baja California courtesy of Thomson Family Adventures, so stay close to our Facebook, Instagram, and?Twitter?feeds for information.
Thank you for reading Outdoor Families Magazine, and thank you for being a part of our own little collective sample of humanity.
~Erin Kirkland, editor