Why do we have national parks?

Why do we have national parks?

In his affectionate review of author Michael Frome’s corpus of writings about national parks, Alfred Runte asks, “Why do we have national parks?” Runte summarizes Frome’s insistent answer: “Because every generation deserves to have them. They are not for the economy; they are rather for the soul of the country. They are all about keeping our tomorrows whole.” In Frome’s…

Viewing the Underworld

Viewing the Underworld

Gazing into the blue-green depths through this watery portal to the underworld, we don’t see the fiery hell of our imagination, but instead only reflections of our own worlds. Our demons do not dwell in the boiling, stinking waters that ooze from the earth’s bowels. They dance instead in the forests and meadows that surround us. ♨

Religion in the National Parks

Religion in the National Parks

Religion has been an implied value in America’s national park idea from the time of the earliest nineteenth-century parks to the present. But the religious element usually remains buried in visitors’ private aesthetic responses to park experiences and attractions. Rarely do specific theological views appear in the parks, even in unofficial activities or park uses. Certainly, the National Park Service…

“Only God Can Create A National Park”

“Only God Can Create A National Park”

There has been a persistent sense among many Americans that national parks are special places, even sacred. It was Horace Albright, the second Director of the National Park Service, who said in 1930 that “Only God can create a national park.” Such theologically tinged interpretations, of course, borrow on the leftover patriotism of nineteenth-century Manifest Destiny. This story of the…

Celebrating a Government Agency

Celebrating a Government Agency

America celebrates the centennial of the National Park Service this year with some high-profile publicity for the nation’s parks. First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush are serving as honorary co-chairs of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration, highlighted by Find Your Park, a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary, specifically targeting millennials;…

Camping Nostalgia

Camping Nostalgia

I recently let go of a tent trailer that had come to me from my father. This trailer had been a special sort of place for me, a mobile habitation invested of nostalgia, memory, and hope. But too little time spent inside its canvas walls, too few miles pulling it along the memorable highways of scenic lands, had left me…