Wednesday Words on the Wild: Parks

The parks do not belong to one state or to one section…. The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona. ~ Stephen T. Mather, NPS Director, 1917-1929


Stephen T. Mather (on the left) in Yellowstone National Park 1923

(photo courtesy of the National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection)

Quotes abound extolling national parks. I hunted down and chose the above quote by Stephen T. Mather, first Director of the NPS, because his story (as presented in Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea) intrigues me, particularly his collaborative working relationship with Horace M. Albright. (Could you help cover your boss for over a decade, and still be friends?)

Stephen Mather lived out his national park beliefs. He dedicated time, energy and money – even his health – to their preservation, expansion and maintenance.

I wish he’d left more in the way of his own personal connection to the national parks, specifically how or why they kept calling him back into service despite severe episodes of bipolar disorder. Stephen’s dedication to the NPS and his personal testimony would likely be a compelling first-hand account. At the very least, wouldn’t it be awesome, sitting around the campfire, to ask of him, “Please tell us about John Muir.”

Maybe Mr. Mather did tell his story. If so, I can’t wait to find it. If and when I do, I will let you all know!

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