Queen Jules and I love national parks. A few years ago we got to see Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. See the rad view in the photo above. We arrived at the park in the afternoon with our friend Mel B, and we did a little walking and hiking and stuck around until evening. As the sun sets, the volcano becomes alive. The smoke becomes more and more visible and eventually when it’s completely dark, you can see the orange glow of the active volcano. It’s amazing and beautiful.
Since I’m too old to become a junior national park ranger, that might be creepy and weird, and too lazy to become an actual park ranger, I bought a National Park Passport and fill it up with stamps and stickers from all the parks I visit. After the election, I immediately booked a flight to Glacier National Park because I had to see it before a) the glacier melted due to something called climate change, b) the new administration began bottling water from its lake and shucking it in gold bottles for jacked up prices, or c) the apocalypse happened.
Last year NPS celebrated its centennial anniversary. They should be having an easy year, like pretty much just show up to work and ride the high of a well-done and accomplished centennial year. Except they are off to a bumpy start, along with every other program and federal agency of the US. A gag order was initiated last week that prevented federal agencies like NPS, EPA, and NASA from providing information and facts about their work. Everything went dark, except for the Badlands National Park who began tweeting facts about climate change, because the National Parks have two jobs 1) show visitors pretty views 2) kick ass and educate people with science and facts. Since they pretty much showed everyone and anyone with a beating pulse last year all their spectacular views, I guess they decided they should move on to kicking ass. And kick ass they did!
Then a rogue twitter account was set up which inspired up to 80 rogue twitter accounts based on federal agencies. Guys, can we step back for a second and just acknowledge how funny and extremely sad it is that our federal agencies are resorting to tweeting out science facts under alias accounts while our president is free to tweet whatever random alternative facts at 3 AM he wants to share on his twitter account??
While the NPS may seem like an unlikely source for leading the charge for the dissemination of science and defying POTUS, they have a track record of progressivism. The National Park Service might not be here today if it were not for the leadership of women, especially one woman, in particular, Mary Belle Sherman. Ms. Sherman was the president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, a group which promotes civic service through volunteerism, in the early 1900s. Part of her duties involved touring the other Women’s Clubs and Mary contracted a serious illness while visiting the Panama Canal.
To heal from her illness, Mary retreated to her home in Estes Park in Colorado. Mary did indeed recover from her illness. Convinced her health was improved by being surrounded by nature and wilderness, Mary lobbied for the creation of the National Park Service. Mary Belle Sherman wrote 700 personal letters urging for the creation of the National Park Service. Mary was successful in 1916. To this day, Mary Belle Sherman is regarded as the National Park Lady, and I bet if she were still alive today she would have a lot to say about today’s political climate, conservation, and the need for educating our youngest generation about park preservation.
Every community should have a place in which the people may spend their leisure time, where they will be brought in direct contact with things of beauty and interest in the outdoor world. – Mary Belle King Sherman at the National Park Conference in Berkeley, CA – March 13, 1915
Mary Belle Sherman (center) at the Rocky National Park Dedication Ceremony
Every time I visit a national park, I’m going to think of Mary Belle Sherman and the 700 letters she authored to make her vision for the National Park System a reality.
It’s also important to note that since the beginning of the National Park Service inception, women were employed, and its first official female park ranger was hired in 1918, a mere two years after NPS began its operations! When the NPS is not defying gag orders and leading the war against falsehoods, they are focused on welcoming populations who do not typically visit National Park sites. “In our second century, we will fully represent our nation’s ethnically and culturally diverse communities,” said an NPS representative in an interview with NPR.