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National Parks + State Parks


Article by Paul Soltis

Photography by New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry

"The national parks embody a radical idea, as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence, born in the United States nearly a century after its creation," asserts Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea. "It is a truly democratic idea, that the magnificent natural wonders of the land should be available not to a privileged few, but to everyone."

As we stay close to home this summer, vacations are cancelled and travel plans are on hold. I'm enjoying the national parks from home through Ken Burns' six-episode documentary.

Courtesy of NJTV, New Jersey's public media station, The National Parks: America's Best Idea is streaming free online for New Jersey residents now through Aug. 10, 2020. If you are outside New Jersey, you may be able to find the series from your own streaming provider. Wherever you are in the world, you can read along with the great website on The National Parks from PBS.

Watch the series with me this summer. As we go, I'm noticing the resonance between the broad themes of conservation and preservation in the national parks to our own state parks, forests and historic sites right here in the Garden State.

Too often we think of the national parks as America's treasures out west, reserved to rangers, ranchers and cowboys. Ken Burns' series shows how vital easterners were to the preservation of our national parks—and I hope my comments will help you discover the stories behind your state parks in New Jersey.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I share a new short video on If you miss a video, find them all on the playlist.

I'm thinking this summer of John Muir, lover of “wildness,” not on his famous treks seeking out glaciers or camping out in Yosemite but during the years he spent working from home in San Francisco and Oakland, California. While absent from Yosemite, the national parks were always on his mind. He used the time at home to study, support and protect them.

While we spend more time at home for the health of ourselves, our families and our communities, let’s join John Muir in using this time to recall those places that mean so much to us and discover new places to love—in our national parks throughout the United States and in our state parks, forests and historic sites here at home in New Jersey.

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