national park, national parks
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
A white pine with brown needles is seen on Cadillac Mountain, Thursday, May 25, 2006, at
Acadia National Park in Maine.

National Park Week Inspires a Look at Our Green Gems

April 20, 2010 04:10 PM
by Colleen Brondou
It’s a good time to visit national parks around the country, and take a look at other areas that may earn national park status.

National Parks in the Spotlight

Our national parks usually see a surge of visitors in the summer months, but this year national parks may get an earlier wave of visitors. By presidential proclamation, the first National Park Week runs from April 17–25. During this time, entrance fees to all 392 national parks are being waived, and many parks are offering special promotions, events and volunteer projects.

Now is a great time to visit existing national parks, and also to take notice of other areas that may soon earn national park designation. “There are many areas in the country that deserve national park status,” Kristen Brengel, legislative director of the National Parks Conservation Association, told Mel White, writing for National Geographic.

Sites under consideration include a 182-mile stretch of the southern Hudson River Valley in New York state, Mount St. Helens in Washington state and a 3.2-million-acre plot of land in northern Maine, among others.

Background: Threats to our national parks

Although conservationists are pushing to expand the number of national parks around the country, the reality is that existing national parks face the harsh reality of deterioration and expensive maintenance.

A program called Vanishing Treasures, which assesses and documents park damage and conducts repairs, has been putting close to $1 million into park projects every year since 1998. But archaeologists, park service workers and volunteers say that is not nearly enough funding to preserve ancient cultural relics, such as adobe structures and cave dwellings.

Meanwhile, federal officials claim that illegal plots of marijuana growing in national forests are damaging the ecosystems there. Mexican cartels are using America’s national forests to grow marijuana and in the process, are polluting the forests.

Historical Context: History of the national parks

Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” first aired in September 2009. According to PBS, the series depicts the parks from their beginnings in the mid-1800s through “archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews.” 

Featuring cinematography captured over a six-year period, which Burns feels is “the most stunning” footage in the history of Florentine Films, the series is a dual biography of the parks’ landscape and characters.

The National Park Service also offers a comprehensive section on park histories, organized by park name, from A to Z. Each park has a list of links and PDF documents with specific historical details to aid in your research.

Reference: US National Parks

The National Park Service Web site offers a wealth of information on where the parks are located, what they offer and how to get to them. Consult the searchable database of links to all national parks, monuments and recreation areas in the U.S., including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

For a complete guide to national parks, see findingDulcinea’s National Parks Web Guide. The guide presents the best links to finding more information on U.S. national parks, camping and activities in our parks, national park volunteer and work opportunities, wilderness organizations and more.

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