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In the Spirit of the 4th

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Visit a National or State Park

I love the 4th of July– the pageantry of it, the family oriented traditions. It’s a day to celebrate all that is good in our country, and there are a lot of good things about our country. At the top of my list of good things about our country is our national and state Parks. They are easily accessible, educational, affordable, and a reminder that America really is America the Beautiful. In the spirit of Independence Day, perhaps a visit to a National or State Park near you is in order.

Summer tends to be the busiest time of year for many parks so advance planning and recommendations are strongly recommended. With a little luck, planning and a long weekend, you might be able to pack as much “wow” into a domestic trip as into an expensive flight to another country. There is also something wonderful about the message of valuing what we have right here at “home” and the lesson of not always thinking that fun, glamor and adventure needs to be expensive, far way or exotic. There is a park for everyone. Is your family ocean oriented? Then a beach or island adventure involving boats, SCUBA or snorkeling gear might be fun. What about backpacking? Animals? Are your kids into dinosaurs? All of these things are available at a National or State Park.

In addition to family fun, shared adventure and valuing what we have, there are a lot of other reasons to visit National Parks. They teach stewardship and nature conservation. They teach history and can make us feel grateful for the vision of the leaders who fought to protect these places. They give us the opportunity to remember the work of people like John Muir, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, General Philip Sheridan, Stewart Udall and Robert Sterling Yard.

In addition to what you might originally have planned for your 4th, consider a trip to a protected and preserved place of natural beauty near you. I will never forget the first time I saw Yosemite Valley or a Sierra meadow full of wildflowers. Your children won’t either.

To learn about National Parks you can visit, go to:

http://www.nps.gov/index.htm

I also think that this game—a Monopoly game—about US National Parks is a fun way to educate children about the treasure of our National Park System:

http://usparks.about.com/blmonopoly.htm

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

July 2, 2013

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