Ken Burns Films America's Best Idea: National Parks

Thinking about today's post of Merrell teaming up with the National Park Foundation to get people into the outdoors, I wondered is any of my American colleagues had written about Ken Burns' upcoming new documentary. Alas, it seems not. A huge oversight. For this six part series to be screened over 12 hours on PBS in September 2009 is titled: "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."In the video clip below, Ken explains why he believes National Parks deserve the moniker of best idea:

You'd be hard pressed to find something that was a purer expression of the democratic impulse, in setting aside land, not for the privileged, not for the kings and nobility, but for everybody. For all time.

The multi-award winning documentary maker, goes on, "The idea that our acquisitive and extractive energy, part of the great commerce and enterprise of our nation, and indeed the world, can be arrested -- should be arrested -- in some places, so that we can carve out a happy relationship with nature, where we can be closer to the beginning of everything."

But the quote that really touch me was a story retold by author, Nevada Barr.

A man came up to a national park gate, and said to the park ranger, "I've only got an hour to see Yosemite, If you only had an hour to see Yosemite what would you do?" The ranger said, "Well, I'd go right over there and I'd sit on that rock. And I'd cry."

Half Dome Yosemite skiing photo

I have to admit watching that segment of the video brought a tear to my eye. Many, many moons ago, I spent two weeks backcountry skiing and walking in Yosemite. It was (and remains) one of the most beautiful places I'd seen, in a very fortunate life. I am so grateful to the people that had the vision to set aside such awe inspiring tracts of land that I and many millions of others might experience their grandeur and serenity.

As with the aforementioned Merrell/National Park Foundation initiative we can only hope that this television series will have the ironic consequence of getting people to turn off their TVs, and go revel in the incredible legacy that have been gifted to them.

It seems to stand a good chance, with PBS suggesting that "As with all of Burns's films, there will be an extensive educational component, an interactive Web site that provides more information about the film, the parks and related issues, as well as a large-scale community engagement initiative."

[Oh and for the record, USA's Yellowstone is often considered to be the world's first national park, however it wasn't officially declared a 'National Park' until 1 October 1890, even though President Ulysses S. Grant signed an Act of Dedication on 1 March 1872 setting aside Yellowstone as "a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."

Whereas on 6 April 1879 a swathe of coastal bushand, south of Sydney, Australia, was officially gazetted as The National Park, later to be renamed in 1955 as Royal National Park, during a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. But it is a technicality, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW graciously accept Royal National Park as "the world's second oldest national park - after Yellowstone in the USA."]
::PBS The National Parks: America's Best Idea
Photo: Half Dome, Yosemite by Warren McLaren / inov8
More National Parks
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How to Go Green: Outdoor Sports
Ten Cool Things About John Muir
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Go Play Outside; Nobody Else is
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No Child Left Inside Act of 2007

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