The National Park system in the United States are a pride and joy of America. There are 401 national park sites in the United States that bring in millions of dollars to the American economy every year. In fact, for every dollar spent in a National Park returns $10 to the American Economy. The National Parks connect the young and old with nature and attempt to preserve the environment that is so gravely threatened.
Contrary to common belief, National Parks do not require a certain distance from cities. In fact some of them have formed in urban areas. National Geographic made a great listing of some of the best ones calling them Urban Escapes. The important part to realize with these Urban Escapes is that are accessible to the city’s population (i.e. less transportation costs and needs), they educate the public about nature, and they are economic revitalizers! From experience in both the remote and urban national parks, I can say that both are equally as effective on connecting the public with nature.
For example this past summer I spent 10 days on Peddock’s Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands, a National Recreation Area, and a Urban Escape as mentioned by National Geographic (and also the opening scene of Shutter Island – all the buildings are real and our fence is behind the church on the left of the screen).
I with 4 other young people were charged with rebuilding a 400 ft fence before the Island opened for visitors. We were all serving for 10 months as a part of the Student Conservation Association Massachusetts AmeriCorps. In fact most of my summer was spend working on trails in and around the Boston area; however, this was the only one in a National Park. Unfortunately, it was also the hardest one to get materials for, and it wasn’t because we were on an island. With little funds to purchase the materials for our fence project, we provided with a variety of not only dimensional lumber varying in width, thickness, and age, but also the bolts by which to connect this fence. We did the best we could as you can see below, but I was amazed by the lack of materials available. This project was almost entirely material costs since we are volunteers!
The National Park service is not run by volunteers. Rangers and management are essential to the survival of our park systems, and these people require salaries. It seems obvious that the government would continue to fund our parks since four in five voters believe that the federal government should support the national parks. Yet, the National Park Service has been under funded over recent years. The results have been delayed opening, closed visitor centers, camp grounds, and picnic areas, less rangers to up keep trails, and limit the number of educational programs.
We can fix these problems in our own neighborhoods and beyond! The National Parks Conservation Association is raising money through a page known as ioby which stands for in our backyards. The group is based around crowdfunding and resource organizing in order to create natural spaces in urban environments. They have organized projects around the country! SCA, AmeriCorps, and other organizations send countless volunteers to preserve our trails every summer. I didn’t have a lot of money to donate, so I volunteered my time. What will you to do save our parks?