Reflecting on the National Park Service Centennial

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I cannot imagine a world without the beauty these spaces offer us. Nature remains the one element that grows consistently in beauty, from the majesty of the Smokey Mountains, to the roaring waterfalls of Yosemite, nature displays her beauty in ways man can never recreate.

In this era of “doing away with open spaces”, our national park sites need our protecting more than ever. I am grateful to President Obama for the work he has done in keeping these spaces open and undeveloped. The land he has protected guarantees we will not see mountaintops aglow with neon signs paving the way.

What would serenity be without the beauty of Yellowstone, or the natural pillars that make up Arches and Canyonland? How would it be to not gaze out at the wonder of the Grand Canyon or to stand in the shade of a giant sequoia? Imagine no El Capitan or Half Dome, imagine a world that protected no open spaces and the serenity of a poppy filled meadow, never was.

Each and every one of us is tasked with protecting these parks, monuments, battlefields and historic sites for future generations to come. We have inherited these remarkable spaces from those who came before us, those who saw the need to reserve and honor the history that is represented at the Statue of Liberty, the battle grounds of Stones River and Native American history at the Aztec Ruins.

For 100 years we have safe guarded these spaces and shared the history of their humble beginnings. Much work remains to be done. We need more black and brown faces in these spaces. We need to make improvements around accessibility for the disabled, we need to find ways to cut down on car emissions, but most importantly, we need to find ways to work together on these issues. I appreciate the time it takes to bring about change, sometimes it moves at an alarmingly slow rate, but if we commit to working together, not for selfish gain, but for the benefit of these spaces, I feel confident that we can bring these changes into existence.

With the centennial underway, I encourage us all to get out and love on these spaces, but keep in mind, every mountaintop that awaits our exploration, every waterfall that is our haven on hot summer days and every valley that embraces us with its serenity, is only there because we have granted their safe keeping to those who wear the uniforms of the National Park Service. Let us aid in their service to us, by doing our part to help keep America beautiful.

Teresa Baker

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