Dear Mr. President,
Recently you signed an executive order threatening the existence of several of our beloved public lands. My heart instantly broke. There is no place I love to be more than in our Parks. I don’t remember what my first National Parks site visit was but since I grew up in Ohio it was somewhere east of the Mississippi. Family vacations were not only a time to get away from daily life for a week, but they also frequently were educational experiences around parks, monuments, and other historical sites.
I will never forget the trip we took to Gettysburg. My parents wanted to get on the road early. Early meant 4AM. I’m still not sure why so early! (I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination) My room and my brother’s room were almost directly across the hall from each other, so my Dad opened both of our doors, turned on the hall light and began reciting the Gettysburg address. I can’t recall if he made it all the way through, pretty sure I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. It certainly helped to cement the memory in my mind though! I do remember driving through the battlefield, imagining what it must have been like in those moments of North vs. South. There is speculation that the area is haunted by the many men who lost their lives. Whether or not that is true, I won’t debate here, but will say that there is a feeling that is inexplicably unsettling. In a time when the divide in our country seems to be growing again, I am glad we have places to remind us of the pain and hardships of civil war so that we hopefully can find amicable ways of coming back together.
We made several trips to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, including our most recent trip complete with a freak early season and unexpected snowstorm during peak fall leaf color! While most of the Park was closed for most of our visit, the unexpected lead to beautiful scenes and even more interesting hiking. We also went to Washington DC and since that first visit, I’ve returned countless times. The National Mall is one of my all-time favorite places to explore and reflect.
I remember the wonder and awe of walking into Mammoth Cave for the first time; amazement at the ceremonial creations of the Hopewell Culture; and hometown pride while visiting the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. Each vastly different from the other, and yet each plays a vital role in the fabric of our culture. These units of the National Park Service combine with the rest to show us where we have been as a country, creating a compass of where we need to go. Whether naturally made, manmade, or simply symbolic, each of the 417 units are vital to our health and happiness as a Nation.
As an adult, I am slowly churning my way through more and more National Park sites across the country. My boyfriend and I took our first vacation together as a road trip from Vegas. We ventured out first to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, spent a night exploring the southern rim of Grand Canyon National Park, drove through Kaibab National Forest, gawked at the Vermillion Cliffs, and fell in love with Zion National Park. Since then we’ve ventured to many more Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites. We have no intention of stopping now.
I would love to elaborate on each of the National Park sites I have visited thus far, but that would turn into a book. That book would have blank pages for all the places I’ve yet to see. Maybe one day I will write that book. I know I’m not alone in my passion for our public lands, and hope you take the time to read what others have written about their experiences.
The addition of new monuments in the last 20 years has been thrilling. Witnessing the living history of the United States of America. I fear an action against the Antiquities Act of this nature will open the door to further pillage other beloved monuments in the future. If you truly want to “Make America Great Again” I implore you to halt any reduction of these sites. These are places that can bring us together no matter our upbringing and social standing. There are so many wonderful, unique places in this country of ours that deserve to be preserved for generations to come.
To those of you looking to have your voice heard, please write and call your Representatives. You can also head here to submit your comments for public review: http://monumentsforall.org/.