It occurs to me that after the League’s well-publicized dustup with the National Park Service, the casual reader might think that we have adopted an anti-NPS attitude here in our buttressed keep. Such an impression could not be further from the truth. Benjamin and I, as well as the rest of the TEAL gang and friends, heartily endorse the noble work that the Park Service has done and continues to do in the name of preservation. For her father’s Christmas gift this year, I helped Jane pick out the handsome volume The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which is the companion book to Ken Burns’s recent PBS series of the same title.
It’s easy to forget just how widespread and deep the labors of the Park Service truly are: click on just about any state on their website’s map and you’ll find a list of several Park-Service-managed locales. They include not just plots of wilderness, but also historic sites and whole interstate trails (the most famous, the Appalachian Trail, being only one of many). In fact, just perusing the NPS properties for a few minutes can give you some great ideas for your 2010 vacation lineup. The Florissant Fossil Beds of Colorado? The Buffalo National River of Arkansas? Isle Royale National Park in wild northern Michigan? Don your boots and go, adventurer! Well, maybe once it warms up a little.
Yes, we still think that the Park Service supremely overreacted to our tiny markings to that sign at the Grand Canyon (which we acknowledge we should not have done), in branding us criminals and charging us thousands of dollars. But that does not taint our respect for NPS and the fine work that it does. The Park Service, like any organization, is necessarily imperfect because it cannot exist outside of the individuals that compose it. There’s inevitably going to be a few people who operate outside the bounds of reason or care. Here’s a recent example from New Year’s Day, when Jane and I ventured to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown to find it closed, despite what the NPS website had said, with this notice on the visitor center door:
Some Park Service employee printed out this sign and then decided to make changes to it with a pen, rather than taking the minute or two to print out a new version. His or her hasty edits missed one outright error, which I will leave to you to spot. I won’t, however, draw any larger conclusions about the Park Service from this messy and relatively unhelpful sign, no more than I would based on whoever was involved in the Grand Canyon case. The Bunker Hill Monument still stands as a grand fixture of the greater Boston skyline, and I look forward to climbing it when it is, in fact, open.
TEAL salutes the National Park Service. Drop a dime in the campaign hat or volunteer at a Park near you.