Horace Albright’s legacy enjoys high esteem, but many of the precedents he set for the National Park Service have contributed to problems that parks now face.
The National Park Service’s management of nature offers America’s wild places as contrived experiences to meet the spiritual expectations of the consumer public.
John (Fire) Lame Deer’s essay about the 1970 occupation of Mount Rushmore highlights a monumental clash between two visions of sacred land.
San Antonio, Texas, boasts a magnificent World Heritage treasure in their Spanish colonial missions. These places serve both religious purposes and tourist pleasures. Which raises the question, are the San Antonio missions sacred or secular? ♨
Spirituality and the State by Kerry Mitchell examines state power through a lens of “spirituality” in America’s national parks. This book shows how affection for parklands relies on a love of nature which is also a love of oneself and of one’s nation. Though intellectually engaging, Mitchell grounds his analysis in stories of people enjoying national parks. ♨
In recent years the National Park Service has begun engaging the diverse peoples of America to tell a more inclusive story of our national heritage. This more inclusive tale allows us to envision a nation that honors the strength and wisdom of our differences. ♨
Voters seem much more in agreement about national parks than just about anything else, but the politics of funding our parks have left them with an enormous backlog of “deferred maintenance.” As a nation we have not been very good at putting our money where our mouth is. The immeasurable value of national parks, though, more than justifies an investment in their future.
Natural Bridge in Virginia may be America’s first natural feature promoted as a tourist destination. Thomas Jefferson characterized Natural Bridge as “the most sublime of Nature’s works,” and now it is recognized as an affiliate site of the National Park Service.
Can we move away from the master narratives of white privilege in our parks? Can we begin thinking of our park system as places of reconciliation? Can they become spaces for listening to what the myriad voices—human, natural, spiritual—have to teach us? Can we move from narratives of conquest to queries of connectiveness?
Happy centennial day for the National Park Service! On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson took up his pen and made official the National Park Service Organic Act. To be clear, Wilson’s autograph did not originate our national parks system. That distinction goes to the establishment of Yellowstone in 1872, or to federal protection of Yosemite in 1864, or to…
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…
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…