The National Parks: An Embodiment of Democracy


There had been no national parks inside of the selection of my traveling abilities when I was developing up. I didn’t actually know what a countrywide park was. The text didn’t evoke any kind of impression within just my practical experience. I hardly ever visited one particular until finally I was an grownup. It took me a prolonged time to master to recognize what a good issue the countrywide parks are.

I have to credit score the Ken Burns-Dayton Duncan film “The Nationwide Parks: America’s Very best Idea” for opening my eyes to the whole magnitude of that plan. I was pretty a lot certain of the real truth of their thesis, that the National Parks genuinely could possibly be “America’s Greatest Concept,” following the founding of the country and the formulation of democracy by itself.

In an job interview, Duncan explained, “I will make the argument that the national parks is our finest idea. And the explanation is mainly because it is truly an expression of the Declaration of Independence used to the landscape, which is that the most attractive, most majestic, and, I would say, sacred places in our nation really should be set aside not for royalty or the abundant or the nicely related, as it experienced been in all recorded history, but for absolutely everyone and for all time.”

Now the strategy has been picked up all over the world. The Intercontinental Union for Conservation of Nature counts additional than 4,000 national parks. And that is fantastic for the full environment. It indicates that lots of of the most lovely areas will be preserved for the advantage of all persons. It is a worthy aspiration toward a greater level of modern society than a single that just lets exploiters operate roughshod around every thing.

The National Parks

The movie 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 virtually every movie, either as a specialist, writer or producer, likely back to The Civil War. But it seems obvious to me, from observing interviews with him, that the film about the national parks was a specific favored for him, and an intensely personal vision.

The countrywide parks have been 1 of the most profound passions of his lifetime. The film was a likelihood for him to place that enthusiasm into a cinematic expression. His like for the parks is infectious. The film collection won two Emmy awards, but even additional importantly, I feel, its vast viewership when it arrived out in 2009 was followed by a surge of attendance at the Nationwide Parks.

I suppose the collection influenced lots of many others the way it did me. I was seriously taken by the concept that the nationwide parks are the theory of democracy expressed in the landscape itself.

Duncan stated that the strategy came from writer and historian Wallace Stegner, who wrote an write-up in 1983 known as “The Greatest Strategy We Ever Had: An Overview.” In it he wrote, “National parks are the greatest idea we at any time experienced. Completely American, completely democratic, they replicate us at our greatest relatively than our worst.”

Stegner himself credits James Bryce, a British Ambassador, with coining the phrase. And there may possibly be other authentic statements to currently being the to start with to articulate the notion. But, as with so several things, finding the “first” is in all probability not possible. Beginnings have a tendency to fade into the mist of the earlier. But that speaks to the universality of the idea.

In a 1990 posting in which Stegner credits Bryce for the phrase, he also acknowledges that “The tracing of concepts is a guessing activity. We can not explain to who initial had an concept we can only explain to who very first had it influentially….”

The notion driving the countrywide parks appears to have occur from the population by itself, a spontaneously arising motion to secure the most lovely spots from exploitative destruction. That far too speaks to it as an expression of democracy. The plan appears to have worked its way up to the governmental organizations that could enact laws to codify it.

It emerged out of a developing consciousness that those people wonderful spots out west would soon be overrun and probably desecrated. It’s an encouraging example of how individuals who consider passionately in one thing can essentially make a big difference, even in the encounter of strong forces towards them.

The origin of the national parks them selves is also not uncomplicated to pinpoint. The website of the National Park Support says, “Artist George Catlin, during an 1832 vacation to the Dakotas, was perhaps the initial to advise a novel option to this speedy-approaching actuality.”

Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness have been all in hazard, wrote Catlin, until they could be preserved “by some wonderful shielding plan of government… in a spectacular park… A nation’s Park, made up of person and beast, in all the wild[ness] and freshness of their nature’s attractiveness!

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt ended up all instrumental in the progress of a nationwide park program. It is a lengthy and elaborate heritage. We are blessed that the concept has managed to endure the political system and to development as properly as it has

When I traveled to some of the excellent countrywide parks of the American West, I got the sensation that the notion underlying the parks is shared in standard by the folks who attend the park. Undoubtedly, they haven’t all seen the Ken Burns film. But someway there seemed to be an unspoken sharing of the ideals.

It struck me particularly when I was in Zion Nationwide Park, but the identical was correct of all the parks I visited. Men and women seem to share a form of reverence for the spot, for the setting.

The title Zion refers to a hill in the town of Jerusalem, but it is also outlined a lot more normally as “holy place” or “kingdom of heaven.” The moment I professional Zion, I comprehended why it was termed that. It is an astonishingly beautiful place, with colossal mountains and steep cliffs, ample running drinking water flowing in crystal crystal clear streams. I got a potent feeling between the individuals traveling to that they appreciated that transcendent splendor and honored the spot as a kind of holy place – a secular spirituality that makes a prevalent ground for men and women of different religions to satisfy on.

I was particularly moved by the spirit of camaraderie I felt and observed there between persons who have been naturally from quite a few diverse states and countries and ethnic backgrounds. But the beautiful landscape, and a shared reverence towards it united every person in an unspoken pact.

The way people taken care of other individuals, with kindness and regard, was a revelation. It was as if the reverence for the all-natural natural beauty infused our relationships with each individual other. It did experience like a holy spot. And it felt excellent.

Could that have existed with no the generation of the nationwide parks? I question it. There had to be an formal proclamation that established apart this land to guard it from those people who would not honor its elegance and see it as a sacred position.

Another issue the movie manufactured clear was that it was always a fight. The safety of those spots so that they have survived in great form up to the time when we could delight in them is a wonderful blessing. It is not something I consider for granted.

But I am way powering. I’ve visited national parks in Africa, Australia, Scotland, Jordan and other locations. And still there are so several in my very own country that I have not found. I will need to test to make up for that blank room in my life story.

Your humble reporter,

Colin Treadwell


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