National Parks: America's Best Idea

Yosemite National Park. Photo Credit: John ColbyThis year, the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of conserving the cultural, historic, scenic, environmental, educational, and recreational values of our national parks. The League is celebrating national parks all year long. Visit the League Web site for the first article in our series about the parks. We've also pulled together some great photography!

We had the privilege of interviewing award-winning writer and filmmaker Dayton Duncan, who suggested a national parks documentary to his friend and collaborator Ken Burns (who took just 45 seconds to agree to the idea!) Duncan spent the next decade working on the six-part film, "National Parks: America's Best Idea."

As Duncan told us, the film is more than pretty pictures – it's about American ideals and the people who devoted themselves to those ideals. "In making the film, we didn 't want it just to be a travelogue. We wanted it to be more than that. It's the story of people who fall in love with a place so completely that they dedicate themselves to setting that place aside so people they would never meet would have the chance to experience that place just the way they did – and fall in love with it too."

"Just like baseball and jazz, national parks were a uniquely American idea – as well as spectacular places," Duncan continued. "We're the first nation in the world to say that our most majestic and sacred places should not be the domain of kings or the rich. They should be available to everyone for all time. It was the Declaration of Independence being applied to the landscape. It is an idea made manifest – equality, the pursuit of happiness. That is what animates the film."

Duncan says that our national parks "are something we should be proud of as a nation and hopefully commit ourselves to ensuring they will be protected in the future. Just as parks relied on the dedication of individual people and small groups for their creation, they also rely on individuals and groups to make sure that the gain is not lost."

PBS is re-airing "National Parks: America's Best Idea" April 25-30, 2016, so mark your calendar!