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This month we will celebrate Presidents’ Day. This past summer I started to think about how someone in the office of president can affect generations to come as I was visiting a national park. Our country truly is America, the beautiful.
There are so many national parks to visit that are awesome and fun for the entire family. What if someone did not see the need or have the vision 100 years ago to preserve these beautiful areas of our country? They could have fallen into private hands and the public would not have privilege to see these gorgeous sites.
We went to Olympic National Park in Seattle and traveled on vacation to Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. It was an adventure I never will forget. We drove onto a ferry boat that transported natives and tourists to different islands. It was amazingly beautiful. I was awed by the vision and foresight of people to preserve these places.
Theodore Roosevelt, noted conservation president, created a legacy other presidents would follow well beyond his term in office. As chief executive from 1901 to 1909, he signed legislation establishing five national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sullys Hill, North Dakota, later designated a game preserve; Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma, now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Another Roosevelt enactment had a broader effect, however. The Antiquities Act of 1906 enabled Roosevelt and his successors to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest in federal ownership as national monuments. President Roosevelt declared Arizona’s Grand Canyon a national monument in 1908. Each year, more than 5 million people visit this natural wonder.
The national park system was created in 1916.
Another one of my favorite national parks is Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, which is more than 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country. There also is evidence of human presence going back more than 11,000 years. There are dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, along with standing masonry walls showing signs of life in the early days.
The National Park Service oversees 398 places, and you don’t have to go far to enjoy the beauty.
It’s very exciting that there are four national parks in Kentucky.
The first is Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville. An early 19th century Kentucky cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born, is preserved in a memorial building at the site of his birth. A couple summers ago, we took our grandson there and he became a junior national park ranger, an adventure for him and a great learning experience as he completed several task to achieve his badge.
Then there’s Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River includes a wide range of natural and historical features and offers a range of recreational opportunities.
The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is quite beautiful, allowing a mountain pass as a main artery of the great trans-Allegheny migration for settlement of “the Old West” and a Civil War military objective. Daniel Boone traveled in this area.
Very close to our area is Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s longest cave system. Tours or hikes are available inside the caves, showcasing eroding limestone located 200 to 300 feet below the surface.
Additionally, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail runs through Kentucky and eight other states. This site commemorates the survival of the Cherokee people despite their forced removal from their homelands in the Southeastern United States in the 1830s.
Besides national parks, we also have 50 state parks in Kentucky, all beautiful and unique. We are surrounded by the miracle of nature and beauty. So this year as you plan your family getaway, don’t forget the affordable beauty of our national and state parks.
It’s not too early to start planning your next great family adventure. You can start at www.nps.gov.
Susan Rider is Speakers with Spark’s Lead Dynamo. She lives in LaRue County.