National Park’s Playground

The idea still widely obtains that our national parks are principally playgrounds. A distinguished member of Congress recently asked: “Why make these appropriations? More people visited Rock Creek Park here in the city of Washington last Sunday afternoon than went to the Yosemite all last summer. The country has endless woods and mountains which cost the Treasury nothing.”

This view entirely misses the point. The national parks are recreational, of course. So are state, county and city parks. So are resorts of every kind. So are the fields, the woods, the seashore, the open country everywhere. We are living in an open-air age. The nation of outdoor livers is a nation of power, initiative, and sanity. I hope to see the time when available State lands everywhere, when every square mile from our national forest reserve, when even many private holdings are made accessible and comfortable, and become habited with summer tramp-us and campers. It is the way to individual power and national efficiency.

But the national parks are far more than recreational areas. They are the supreme examples. They are the gallery of masterpieces. Here the visitor enters in a holier spirit. Here is inspiration. They are also the museums of the ages. Here nature is still creating the earth upon a scale so vast and so plain that even the dull and the frivolous cannot fail to see and comprehend. Here forests and meadows are the evolution of thousands of years. National parks are museums.

This is no distinction without a difference. The difference is so marked that few indeed even of those who visit our national parks in a frivolous or merely recreational mood remain in that mood. The. spirit of the great places brooks nothing short of silent reverence. I have seen men unconsciously lift their hats. The mind strips itself of affairs as one sheds a coat, It is the hour of the spirit. TOne returns to daily living with a springier step and a broader horizon for having worshipped at the shrine of the Infinite.