October 22, 2009
It is not enough to understand the natural world. The point is to defend and preserve it. – Edward Abbey
Three events created the perfect storm in my life this month: I watched Ken Burns’ documentary, “The National Parks America’s Best Idea,” my family visited and with a swift kick in the butt, I realized there are so many awesome places in my “backyard”, I need to play in them, and I read in a letter to the editor that Cozens Ranch may close permanently.
This perfect storm makes me realize I need to take action; protect these things I care about before they are gone.
Two hours each night and six nights – 12 hours total – I watched the Ken Burns special; I was entranced.
Wallace Stegner penned the quote, American’s Best Idea; he is “the Dean of Western writers,” winning the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Angle of Repose in 1972. As a conservationist, teacher, and author Stegner tells us the only way we can solve problems is through community action; whether we write, paint, protest, take photographs, or write letters.
This is exactly what the people who started the national parks did so the American public could recreate in beautiful places. Ansel Adams, Albert Bierstadt, John Muir, Stephen Mather, and John D. Rockefeller all contributed to the national park idea. What Ken Burns’ documentary did for me is make me realize that preserving these parks, and wilderness, is the best idea for me.
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I didn’t visit Rocky Mountain National Park until my family came to visit despite it being 20 minutes from my house. (Read Outdoor Adventures column Oct. 2) I have two dogs that I hike with and since dogs aren’t allowed on trails I never hiked in the park. However, I’ve been missing out on many things like elk bugling, thick lodge pole forests with meadows, and all the hikes off Trail Ridge Road. Now, I hike in the park once a week and leave the dogs at home.
Now that Grand County is my home I want to know its history. I want to see the historical artifacts. Cozens Ranch is one of the oldest homesteads in the Fraser Valley. I’ve seen Doc Susie’s examining table, walked through the Eisenhower room, and viewed the original boarding rooms on the top level. Visitors and newcomers need to learn and have access to our frontier heritage. We all need to know about the homesteaders, mountain men, and railroad workers who contributed to the beginnings of our towns. We need to know about the history just like Burns let us know about the people who started the national park idea.
I’ve spent over 20 years in the outdoors as a hiker and backpacker in national parks and wilderness areas. Now it’s my time to get involved and protect these amazing places. Burns tells us about the scientists, writers and politicians who played a part in creating the national parks and has inspired me to be a part of preserving the wild and historical places in our country.
So I am volunteering, joining organizations like the Grand County Historical Association and the Sierra Club. I am writing letters to Mark Udall about supporting The Public Lands Service Corps Act and sending e-mails to Sen. Michael Bennet about energy and climate change legislation. I’m going to do everything I can to preserve my backyard and the history in it.
Rocky Mountain National Park is in danger of losing habitat due to global warming and being “loved to death.” These are our parks, our history that was set aside for public use. Now, what are we going to do to take care of them?