Northwest NEWS

August 26, 2002


National parks are special places that must be protected for our children and for future generations

   Recently, I read a wonderful article about a family's unforgettable road trip to Yellowstone National Park. With "National Parks Service Day" right around the corner (August 25), it reminds me just how important our national parks are.
   It also brought to mind the Saturday Wildflower Hiking trip a group of us just took with Earth Ministry and a few wonderful naturalists who volunteered as guides.
   We went to a gorgeous place near our own Mount Rainier National Park. Looking at the delicate wildflowers with a hand lens and the great mountain as a majestic backdrop was awe-inspiring.
   The rejuvenating experience strengthened our hearts and feeling of community with nature and with others hiking along the flower-bordered trails.
   We saw people from many parts of the world and I was encouraged to see so many children and babies enjoying the experience right along with their parents and grandparents. It's a wonder why we Americans don't spend more time recreating in the parks and less time sitting passively in front of the t.v.
   National Parks truly provide a rich diversity of experiences for billions of visitors from across the world. They also provide a safe haven for birds, fish, wildlife and plant species. Living trees clean our air and provide us with much-needed oxygen.
   Additionally, national parks give us an incredible insight into cultural and archeological history.And we can really learn a lot from nature. There's an interesting lesson in every grand tree and in every tiny flower.
   The sad thing is these national treasures have been so under-funded for so long now that these special places are now in jeopardy. \Many Americans assume that National Parks are fully protected, but that is not the case when funding for maintaining them is cut. We must not take these beautiful places for granted.
   When the Senate returns in September, they will consider the budget for our national parks. Senators Murray and Cantwell have been strong advocates for the national parks.
   During these times when Americans are so focused on homeland safety, let us not forget what we are protecting.
   When I think of America - why I love it and what is worth protecting - I think of many things. When I hear songs about "purple mountains majesty" and "from sea to shining sea," I can't help but visualize our gorgeous Mount Rainier National Park, educational places like Seattle's Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, great national monuments like the Statue of Liberty standing tall in NYC, the Jefferson and Lincoln monuments in Washington, D.C., the purple landscape at the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, and of our own Olympic National Park with its lush green temperate rainforests.
   These places are the places I envision when people speak of protecting America. National Parks provide so much to all of us.
   I feel comforted when I'm hiking through the gentle wildflowers. And I feel safe near the mighty glaciers and ridges of Mount Rainier and elsewhere.
   With the one year anniversary of the September 11 attacks right around the corner, I will look for more opportunities to renew my spirit and find peace and meaning in nature.
   I would encourage our hard-working Senators Murray and Cantwell to also take some time to visit these great places to renew their spirits while they are home in August.
   Hopefully, they'll be able to return to the "other Washington" in September refreshed from the experience and reinvigorated to push the United States Senate to do a better job of fully funding and meeting the needs of our national parks for they are an important part of our legacy.
   These special places must be protected for our children and for future generations to enjoy just as we do today.
   Karen Hertz, Bothell