A Century-Old Idea That Remains Eternally Relevant
By: Puranjot Kaur Khalsa
It’s a century-old idea that remains eternally relevant. Perhaps now, more than ever, national parks are important.
Soaring numbers of visitors are drawn each year to our national parks to breathe in the natural world and to understand the power of wilderness. And while they’ll learn about glaciology and take photographs of themselves atop mountain peaks, the real goal for these travelers is a sense of wonder. National parks, as much as they’re about policy and ecology, are really about a feeling.
Here are four reasons national parks are so important today:
1. Parks are for everyone: National parks serve as the ultimate equalizer – everyone is the same in nature. Confronted by the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, we all feel small and inspired. And in that connection, we are joined by a common memory of being in a spectacular place at a spectacular moment. Parks belong to all of us equally.
2. Parks help us get outside: Their existence encourages us to get out and explore the natural world. Infrastructure – from trails to interpretive signs – help make it easier. Kids come to understand that there is something bigger, something more grand, all around us. Seniors, many who have been visiting national parks for decades, come back again and again in search of enrichment. Millennials find solace from frantic lives amidst the quiet vastness of the wilderness. Without the subtle and welcoming introduction that parks provide to the natural world, many people would not venture into the wilds.
3. Parks are timeless: No matter the incessant rollercoasters of daily modern life, the highs and lows of newscycles and economic fluctuations, national parks stand for everlasting wonder. They’re a place free from style, trends and whims. There are no election campaigns, sports playoffs or school calendars in nature. They just are. Just as they’ve always been.
4. Parks put nature first: National parks showcase the natural cycle. The annual return of humpback whales to the Gulf of Maine, the first dusting of color in an Acadia autumn and the spring song of a chickadee in a pine forest all represent a world separate from human development. These refuges are apart from our control, forever distanced from any attempt we may have to set a date.
Just knowing national parks are there brings value to our lives. They make us more curious, more awake. National parks make us better people. In an era with ever-increasing cynicism and irreverence, nature stands tall here and we visitors become humble. National parks remain the epitome of wilderness, on a planet with less and less of it each and every day.