PERC Thoughts: Why We Care About Our National Parks

Published: 
Monday, April 18, 2016
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This week the National Park Service celebrates National Park Week. As America continues to honor our parks, it's important that we ask serious questions regarding the $12 billion maintenance backlog, so we can continue to explore and enjoy our national parks in the future. Here's why they mean so much to us:  

WENDY PURNELL

Where did you first fall in love with our national parks?
When I was little, my family lived on the Idaho side of the Tetons, so I spent a lot of time in both the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. As a 4-year-old, I loved camping at Jenny Lake in the summer and exploring Yellowstone in the winter.


Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Which is your favorite park?
Now that I live in Bozeman, I take a lot of visitors to Yellowstone, but I definitely prefer spending time in less crowded venues away from the tourists. As for parks, I find it impossible to even narrow down my favorite few.

Why?
I'm a Rocky Mountain girl, but I also love kayaking around the Channel Islands, and all of the mosses and greens of the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park blow my mind.

REED WATSON

Where did you first fall in love with our national parks?
On a family camping trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We nearly froze to death. I was a young boy and it was my first taste of adventure. 

Which is your favorite park?
Yellowstone in the winter because the heavy snowfall keeps the crowds away, so you can enjoy the majesty of the place without the traffic jams. God's version of user fees, I suppose.

SHAWN REGAN

Where did you first fall in love with our national parks?
Grand Teton National Park. My dad took me on a backpacking trip on the Teton Crest Trail when I was 16. It was incredible.

Which is your favorite park?
Olympic National Park. For several years, I was a backcountry ranger in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic, which became my absolute favorite national park.


Olympic National Park

Why?
Olympic has an incredibly diverse landscape. You can visit tidal pools, temperate rainforests, and snow-capped peaks — all in one day. It's also a vast wilderness, with many remote regions and opportunities for rugged adventure.

HOLLY FRETWELL

Where did you first fall in love with our national parks?
It is not so much parks, per se, that I love but nature and adventure. The national parks provide great places to visit, particularly as a destination. Living 90 miles from Yellowstone makes it a great place to show off the beauty of our region. The memories I have in Yellowstone are wonderful, despite the huge crowds. Return visits always bring back a glimmer of the past — both my own and the history of parks in general.


Yellowstone National Park

Which is your favorite park?
Grand Teton National Park is my favorite because looking at the Tetons takes my breath away every time.

Why?
I have not ventured into the Tetons much. The awe to me is standing back and looking in. One of my most memorable visits was with my sister and our kids about ages 6, 7, and 8. We toured Yellowstone all day going from boardwalk to boardwalk, and made it to Yellowstone Lake for dinner. Then we realized that the road along the lake had been closed due to a wildlife. Our cabin for the night was in Colter Bay, just south of the Teton park entrance. We had to drive back up the Yellowstone park loop to get back down into Teton, arriving around midnight. Waking the next morning in a cozy cabin and wandering out to see Jackson Lake with the Tetons in the background is a feeling to never be forgotten.

KRISTEN BYRNE

When did you first fall in love with our national parks?
When I was little, my mom would take my brother and me to Cabrillo National Monument. Point Cabrillo is located on the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, so it is surrounded by that mesmerizing Pacific blue. She would take us there to watch my father's destroyer launch from the naval base, explore the old Point Cabrillo lighthouse, whale watch, and play in the tide pools. I remember feeling like I could see the world from up there. 

Which is your favorite park?
Shenandoah National Park, not because it is the most impressive, but because it harbors the most memories — silly camping trips and beautiful hikes spent with some of my favorite people. I have logged a lot of miles in the Blue Ridge Mountaints, and I think my time spent there is a major reason why I wanted to work with the environment. Whenever I go back to Virginia, I make it a point to visit and grab an apple cider doughnut on the way. 


Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

HANNAH DOWNEY

Where did you first fall in love with our national parks?
I fell in love with national parks when I visited Zion National Park in southern Utah two years ago.

Which is your favorite park?
My favorite is Zion National Park because it's like nothing else I have ever encountered. It's one of those places that takes your breath away. What sets it apart from other parks is how it encourages you to get out of your car and actually interact with your surroundings. You can climb around on rocks or hike some of the riskiest trails I've ever experienced in a national park — you can't see everything from the comfort of your car. 


Zion National Park

JULIE UPTON

When did you first fall in love with our national parks?
I first fell in love with national parks while visiting Yellowstone. I'd always imagined it would look exactly like Old Faithful does in pictures, but it's so much more than that. I love all the different terrains and beautiful views. By far my favorite place within Yellowstone is the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone National Park. It's breathtaking. Every time I go to Yellowstone, I spend the most time hiking around to see the canyon from different views.


Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park

Which is your favorite park?
Yellowstone National Park is definitely my favorite. It's so close to home, and I've had so many opportunities to explore it.


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As PERC's Media & Marketing Manager, Kristen translates and markets academic research to students, policymakers, and journalists by adapting and packaging PERC's stories. Prior to PERC, Kristen produced segments for the STOSSEL show on Fox Business, worked at a local news station in Philadelphia, and wrote for the Washington Examiner. As a...
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