I have been enjoying Ken Burn’s series on the National Parks and if you haven’t seen it, you are really missing some great TV. As someone who has visited 21 National Parks (out of 58 according to Burns and 60 according to the National Parks Conservation Association) and whose Passport to the National Parks has a total of 102 stamps, I have been waiting to see this program for a long time.
When I started collecting stamps in 1997 there were, if I recall, about 360 units of the parks service and my goal then was to see them all. Besides the national parks, the units include National Monuments, Lakeshores, Historic Sites, Trails, Parkways, Rivers and so forth. You can see a whole list of the types of units and how they are defined on the website of the NPCA. Over the years, the number has changed and now my target is 391, but I fear that this is an elusive goal and I may have to be content to visit just a large percentage of the total number.
Living in the Midwest, achieving my goal has been a challenge. My passport thrived the one year we lived in Northern California when my husband did interim work in Sacramento. Winter and summer vacations have helped, too, but if you look at a map of National Parks in the Great Lakes Basin, you will only see Cuyahoga Valley near Cleveland, Ohio, and yes, I have been there.
In Wisconsin, we have no park but we do have the Apostle Islands and the St Croix River sites (and yes, I have been to both) and some scenic trails. Michigan does better with Isle Royale which is a National Park and, Pictured Rock and Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshores (no, none of these yet) as well as several historic sites. Indiana has the wonderful Indiana Dunes Lakeshore, which I have visited often. Illinois. Ohio and New York’s sites, at least the ones near the Great Lakes, are mostly historical (and yes, I’ve been to several of them).
What has been interesting about Burn’s series, besides the fabulous photos, which make me wish for the very first time I had HDTV, has been the historical perspective on the development of the parks. Often just one determined person was influential in convincing our government to preserve parts of our country for the masses, regions that for other individuals could have been sources of great wealth in mining and forestry rights. Even today, these fights go on and I frequently get email requests from NPCA or the Sierra Club asking me to tell my Senator or Congressman what I want him to do to preserve our natural heritage.
Imagine if someone were to create a Great Lakes National Park. What would it include? It would be bigger than France and the United Kingdom combined, and would be both above ground and underwater. It would include sand dunes, Carolinian and Boreal forest, wetlands, and a variety of geological formations. It would be rich in fresh water, minerals, plants, and animals. I can only imagine what controversy such a proposal would create. Just look how hard it was to pass the Great Lakes Compact. No, I don’t expect that to ever happen. Still, just imagine having that stamp in my passport.
By the way, the National Park of American Samoa is one of the 58 (or 60) national parks. I wonder how it has fared following the earthquake this week. Well, I hope.