PARKS CONTINUE TO GET HIGH MARKS
by Whit Gibbons
June 9, 2003
South Carolina friend, Lee Dane, sent me the following comments in response
to an earlier column. Anyone making a trek out West this summer should
read them. They also give notice that much of the voting public places
a high value on our national parks as natural resources, simply for
visiting and viewing.
"Your column on the value of our national park system really resonated
with me. Our daughter and I just got back from a driving trip to Seattle.
We went by way of national monuments in New Mexico, including El Malpais
with its volcanic remnants and ancient lava flows, and El Morro with
its 200-foot-high sandstone rock rising out of the desert. In Arizona,
the Petrified Forest National Park with its Painted Desert was spectacular
in so many ways, and the Grand Canyon is always a breathtaking sight.
there we went on to California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
with its stunning vistas and natural areas, and to Redwood National
and State Parks [this is a cooperative management effort between the
National Park Service and California Department of Parks and Recreation,
which protects almost half the old-growth redwood forest remaining in
California]. The world's biggest trees will always be impressive, no
matter how many you see or how many times you see them.
the broadest consideration of our national park system, the habitat
preserved is so varied and so extraordinarily wonderful. We are lucky
to have such a rich heritage--I despair of what some of our politicians
want to do with so much of our `protected' open space! Even in the deserts
of New Mexico and Arizona, the pressure on the habitats outside the
parks and monuments is quite intense. El Malpais was a wonderful example
of how a habitat can come back from overgrazing. I could even see the
new bunchgrasses and flowering herbs and shrubs that have returned inside
the boundary line.
staff of the parks we visited were invariably polite, knowledgeable,
helpful, and eager to tell us about what was going on. I was interested
to see how many volunteers they make use of now, as I gather park budgets
had been trashed even before the present budget crunch. But we saw no
evidence of run-down or underserved spaces--the park personnel did an
extraordinary job. Some of the trails and buildings had been built by
the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] and WPA [Works Progress Administration]
during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and were still holding up
well to the untutored eye.
everywhere we visited was a national park site, and it was encouraging
to see other preserved natural areas. Bear Creek Preserve in Redmond,
Washington, was a haven for warblers and other birds and has the most
bounteous salmon run still remaining in the area. We were not there
during spawning season, but I gather that the little stream is literally
choked with salmon when they come up. Think what it must have been like
in the old days!
Canyon, also in Washington State, is coming back from extreme overgrazing.
The wild flowers were fabulous; the birds pretty wonderful; and we also
saw our only snake of the trip, a bright gopher snake that one of the
other people we ended up hiking with screamed about as a rattler. It
is so sad that so many people don't take the time to recognize the good
have inspired us to check out `Rocky' [in Colorado] the next time we
drive West. But the area around Sequoia is so spectacular that it will
be a hard sell to move us from that one till it is fully explored."
Many people in the country hold Lee's sentiments that we should enjoy
our natural environments for themselves and their natural beauty. No
lifetime is long enough to explore all of the many natural wonders to
be yielded by our national parks. Those of us who value our national
park system need to let Congress know that we do not want these national
treasures to suffer from either exploitation or neglect.
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