NATURE CAMPS FOR KIDSMarch 8, 2011
The Five Reasons Parents Should be Demanding a Greener Education for Their ChildrenMarch 11, 2011
America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations
Presented by President Barack Obama on February 16, 2011
East Room of the White House – 5:05 p.m.
By Joe Elton, President, National Association of State Park Directors
I was delighted to be invited to the White House to represent America’s state parks. As president of the National Association of State Park Directors it was my duty to represent the 730 million annual visitors to state parks who count on these special places for outdoor recreation, for their connection to nature and for the therapy they provide for the mind, body and spirit. It’s also important to note that these close to home parks also contribute more than $20 billion to the nation’s economy at a cost of less than $2 billion – a 10 fold return on investment.
President Obama built his speech on the words and deeds of U. S. Presidents from our nations past. He invoked our 3rd American President when he said, “In 1786, Thomas Jefferson described the view from Monticello: ‘How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet.”
President Obama then looked to our 16th President to make the point that conservation can and should be done – even during troubled times – by reminding us that “at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln agreed to set aside more than 60 square miles of land in the Yosemite Valley – land he had never seen – on the condition that it be preserved for public use.”
He then turned to our 26th President and said, “Teddy Roosevelt, of course, our greatest conservation President, wrote that ‘there is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty.”
Lastly, he spoke of our 32nd President and said, “Even FDR, in the midst of the Great Depression, enabled the National Park Service to protect America’s most iconic landmarks – from Mount Rushmore to the Statue of Liberty.
I might add that during the Great Depression a dynamic partnership between the Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Park Service and the Commonwealth of Virginia created the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park and the first six Virginia state parks. All three of these remarkable achievements are proof – 75 years after their opening – that investing in outdoor recreation resources can pay enormous dividends in the future. Every state can point to similar examples of Depression era parks that have been serving the public good for 75 years.
President Obama observed that “conservation became not only important to America, but it became one of our greatest exports, as America’s beauty shone as a beacon to the world. And other countries started adopting conservation measures because of the example we had set. He said “each of us has an equal share in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it. And it’s not just the iconic mountains and parks that we protect, it’s the forests where generations of families have hiked and picnicked and connected with nature. It’s the park down the street where kids play after school. It’s the farmland that’s been in the family longer than anybody can remember. It’s the rivers where we fish, it’s the forests where we hunt.”
President Obama made the point that “Today, our open spaces are more precious than ever – and it’s more important than ever that we come together to protect them for the next generation.” I couldn’t agree more.
As best I could tell, there were about 140 people in East Room at the White House – excluding the media. The mood was that of a grateful audience, especially given that Teddy Roosevelt was the last President to host a national conversation on conservation.
It was also subdued in my opinion. It seemed the President was keenly aware of the economic and political challenges facing the nation – and so was his audience.
The report’s Vision Statement says “Americans participate in the shared responsibility to protect and care for our unique natural and cultural heritage for the use and enjoyment of future generations.
Joe Poses with Chris Fanning from the Outdoor Foundation.
The Outdoor Foundation is a partner with America’s State Parks
on the Youth Ambassador Program.
In my opinion, Americans, from the President on down, are calling for greater access to nature that is close to home. The public continues to support parks and outdoor spaces in their communities – local, state and regional parks best accomplish this objective.
America’s State Parks are serving the needs of communities and fulfilling their mission of providing Americans with pristine, safe, natural spaces close to home at record levels. The states recorded more than 3/4 billion visits in 2010. They continue to do more with less as general fund support from states has been dramatically reduced in recent years. During these tough economic times, they generally enjoy strong customer satisfaction levels and record economic impact. State parks have never been more important to the American people than they are today.
You can download the full report and fact sheets here
To see video of President Obama’s announcement, click here.
To read the text of President Obama’s remarks, click here.
To read last night’s Associated Press article about the report, click here.