National Parks

AnselTomorrow night, Sunday, PBS is airing the first of six episodes of the new Ken Burns documentary, National Parks: America’s Best Idea. You don’t want to miss it–I know it means recording either this or Mad Men, but be sure to catch them both.

I saw a preview of the first episode (in true Ken Burns style, there are six, two-hour episodes to cover almost every park in the country), and it is just flat-out beautiful. It took a decade to get all the filming done so they could shoot each park at every time of day, in all weather conditions, and from the most breathtaking locations. If your TV can handle it, it’s also broadcast in some kind of kryptonite super-duper high definition.

In addition to the physical grandeur, the series also focuses on people who are or have been instrumental in park development and conservation. At a time when parklands are some of the first places to trim budgets (witness California coming perilously close to closing lots of state parks), it is wise to remember, as Burns says, “In Europe, the most magnificent places are palaces and castles that belong to rulers and monarchs and the aristocracy. In America, the most glorious places belong to all of us.”

Once you are sufficiently inspired, go to the National Park Service website and look for volunteer opportunities. There are ways to help in almost every National Park, memorial, landmark, etc. Help with maintenance and improvement to protect the lands for the next generation. With the economic crisis, and money disappearing from every government-sponsored project, now more than ever, volunteers need to pick up the slack.

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