National parks are often called America’s best idea. Celebrated in last year’s Ken Burns documentary, the national parks system just created its 397th unit. This should be a golden age for our national parks, but sadly it isn’t.
The recent shooting of a park ranger on the slopes of Mount Rainier by an Iraqi war veteran tarnished the idea about the safety that we should expect when visiting a park.
There is also a moral sickness afflicting the national park leadership threatening to undermine the very mission of the system. About a year ago on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the superintendent noticed that the trail down to the Colorado River was littered by empty plastic water bottles discarded by hikers. He proposed a ban on said bottles to go into effect as soon as he could construct a water refill station at the trail head. These ideas were approved by his boss, Jon Jarvis, NPS director. Within a week of the ban going into effect, Director Jarvis abruptly canceled it because he had been “leaned” on by the National Park Foundation, due to concerns from Coca Cola, a distributor of plastic water bottles under Dasani, that has donated $13 million to the parks.
John R. Silliman