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Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013
This Land is Your LandPosted Monday, September 28, 2009, at 5:11 PM
Last night, the first installment of Ken Burns' new documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" aired on public television. I must admit that I typically enjoy sitcoms and dramas more than informational TV, but I liked Burn's film on the Civil War, so I decided to watch his new work. And I am so glad I did.
This part of the documentary focused on the beginnings of national parks in America. It told the early stories of Yosemite and Yellowstone, accompanied by breathtaking images of beautiful scenery and wildlife. In the introduction, Burns postulates that, if not for government intervention, Yellowstone would now be an amusement park called "Geyser World" and Yosemite, a vacation spot for the rich and famous.
I first went to a national park when I was 9 years old. My mom, my aunt, my cousin and I took a two-week trip through Appalachia to Washington, D.C. Our first stop was in Tennessee at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We hiked through the woods over slowly ascending terrain, and I took photos of the hazy horizon with my Mickey Mouse camera. I remember that a bird pooped on my brand new Smoky Mountains baseball cap and that we saw a black bear as we drove away from the park.
This was the first of many national parks I've visited throughout my life. I have a national parks "passport" that gets stamped at each park, in order to document my trips. I got it as a child, though I continue to use it and sometimes get funny looks from the park rangers. My goal is to get stamps from all 391 national parks before I die, and not just because I want to fill my book, but because the parks are places of great beauty and historical significance. George Washington Carver's home may not be as fancy as Monticello, but it is interesting nevertheless.
Our country is blessed with a great diversity of landscapes, flora and fauna. The volcanoes of Hawaii, the deserts of the Southwest, the Everglades in Florida, etc., all offer an amazing window into the glory of mother nature. Technically, you and I each own a tiny part of these national treasures; and I certainly don't mind paying taxes to support the preservation of war memorials, historic residences and precious ecosystems. After watching Burns' film, I'm especially grateful our leaders had the foresight to protect these areas before they were rendered irreparable damage.
So tonight, instead of watching your Monday night shows, take a look at part two of "The National Parks" on PBS, or watch it online tomorrow. I promise, it will make you proud.
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Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.