“The fundamental purpose of the parks is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
In 1872, the United States did something that had never been done before. It set aside an expanse of land for the sole purpose of preserving what was found there-the natural beauty and wonders. This was the first time that land had been set aside by a nation for the sole purpose of everyone’s benefit. Yes, Europe had its parks and gardens as did Asia, but they were for the powerful upper tiers of society, for the aristocracy, for royalty, and emperors. Yellowstone was for everybody. Even the entrance arch stated as much, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”
Now, nearly 150 years later, the National Park system (turning 100 in 2016) has grown to include scores of parks, historic sites, and monuments. I’ve had the opportunity to explore and experience some of these preserved majesties and seen first hand that “the benefit and enjoyment of all people” is being realized. America’s National Parks are respecters of no persons. They are the world’s parks and the best representation to the world of what America is. Every time I’ve been to a National Park I’ve been deeply impacted at how many of my trail companions are from other parts of the globe. It is in the magnificent beauties of creation that have been preserved for all people where we can forget that we come from different backgrounds and occupations, that we may have different political or social views, and that we may be rich or poor.
Robert Sterling Yard, an American writer and journalist, said it best back when the National Parks were still in the infancy after visiting the world’s first National Park.
“Nowhere else do people from all the states mingle in quite the same spirit as they do in their national parks. One sits at dinner, say, between a Missouri farmer and an Idaho miner, and at supper between a New York artist and an Oregon shopkeeper. One climbs mountains with a chance crowd from Vermont, Louisiana, and Texas and sits around the evening campfire with a California grape grower, a locomotive engineer from Massachusetts, and a banker from Michigan. Here the social differences so insisted on at home just don’t exist. Perhaps for the first time, one realizes the common America and loves it. In the national parks, all are just Americans.”