Wayback Wednesday

Happy National Park Week! Today, we flash back to the past and honor our nation’s historic natural and cultural heritages preserved in parks and communities.

History and memories are made each day at the national parks.  Take a moment to reflect on one of your own favorite national park memories today!

Enjoy a photo of my own Wayback Wednesday of the national parks of a pretty special day in my life and then again 15 years later (almost two years ago):

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Happy National Park Week!

Cherry Blossoms

What do you think about when you hear the words “Cherry Blossoms”? Many Americans picture the amazing trees set in the National Mall area of Washington DC and their beautiful blooms in the Spring.

These beautiful tress are in full bloom here in Northern California and I wanted to share a bit about how these trees ended up in a swampy Washington DC many years ago.

In 1901, Helen “Nellie” Herron Taft traveled to Manila, Philippines where she found a beautiful and inviting landscape along the river park area. In 1909, the First Lady saw potential to make our National Mall area more beautiful and started work on it.

In 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Iwa Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern edge of the Tidal Basin in a simple ceremony and it ended up creating a lasting impact. In fact, the cherry trees as “landscape diplomacy” have symbolized positive Japanese-American relations repeatedly since that first planting.

You can thank a former First Lady the next time you visit Washington DC and see these beautiful trees. Also, this Cherry girl likes their name. 😉

Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Today celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the globe. I wanted highlight here a couple of the many women who have impacted our national park service. 

Clare Marie Hodges served as the first female park ranger in the national park service.  She worked as a teacher at the Yosemite Valley School and grew up visiting Yosemite National Park.  As World War I began, men were sent to serve and Yosemite needed park rangers. Clare applied to become a ranger in 1918 and wrote, “Probably, you’ll laugh at me. But, I want to be a ranger.” Park Superintendent Washington B. Lewis wrote back, “I beat you to it, young lady. It’s been on my mind for some time to put a woman on one of these patrols.”

Fran Mainella worked as the first female director of the national park service. President George W. Bush nominated her to this role in 2001 and the Senate confirmed. She worked in this job until 2006. Her first job in parks and recreation was as a playground counselor in Connecticut back in 1965.  She built her career around the parks and led the Florida State Parks before becoming the director of the national park service. From the start of her directorship, she stated “Our nation’s parks tell the story of America and the history of this country. National parks represent the soul of America and a gift to the world. They are places of great history, beautiful landscapes, protected ecosystems and endangered species.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, thank you to all the women who have played a role in our national park system, continue to do so today, and those coming in the future. 

“I believe that life should be lived so vividly and so intensely that thoughts of another life, or of a longer life, are not necessary.” ― Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Black History National Parks

Today’s post will highlight five national parks that honor black history during this month of Black History Month. Click on the links below to learn more about these important sites within our national park system and history.

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site – This national historic site was the home to the “Father of Black History” located in Washington DC. Dr. Carter G. Woodson lived here from 1922 until his death in 1950. Before Dr. Woodson, very little accurate was written about the history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. According to NPS, Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument – This national monument in Mississippi is one of the newer national park sites. Their home commemorates the legacies of two civil rights activists who devoted their lives to ending racial injustice against Black Americans through local and national activism.  According to NPS, the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963 for his efforts to promote racial equality and social justice was one of the key catalysts for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park – Located in Maryland, this national park honors Harriet Tubman’s bravery and leadership saving and guiding nearly 70 enslaved people to freedom. “When I found that I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything.”~ Harriet Tubman

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site – This national site in Virginia honors Maggie Lena Walker who devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. As a bank president, newspaper editor, and fraternal leader, Walker served as an inspiration of pride and progress.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument – Located in Ohio, this national monument honors the legendary all-Black U.S. Army units and their leader, Charles Young. Col. Young was a distinguished officer in the U.S. Army, the third African American to graduate from West Point, and the first to achieve the rank of colonel. In addition, he was the first African American to serve as a superintendent of a national park. Buffalo Soldiers were pretty much the first park rangers.

These are just a few national park sites honoring African Americans in the national park system. Check out these cool and important places!

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love, 1963.

National Park Service sites will have free admission for everyone on Monday, January 18, 2021, as the first fee free day of the year in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

The National Park Service offers opportunities across the country to honor this important person.

In Georgia, there is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park. In this location, you can walk through his neighborhood of Atlanta where he had his birthplace, home, church, and burial site. 

In Alabama, there’s the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Here you can retrace the steps of the 1965 Voting Rights March led by Dr. King on this 45-mile long trail.

In Alabama, there is also the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. At this national monument, you can visit places where Dr. King and his fellow activists coordinated for civil rights.

In Washington DC, there’s the Lincoln Memorial. Here you can stand where Dr. King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech.

Also in Washington DC, you can visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The memorial honors Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice.

Since travel isn’t an option for many of us right now, you can also participate in a Zoom to get a virtual tour of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park on Monday, January 18, 2021 at 6pm. This program is free and open to the public. Click here for the Zoom information.

Take time on this Monday to honor and celebrate this great man. Educate yourself and act.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.

Muir Woods National Monument

Happy 113th anniversary to Muir Woods National Monument!

On January 9, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Muir Woods National Monument in California named after conservationist John Muir. Muir Woods became the 7th National Monument and was the first one created from land donated by a private individual.

Did you know that the first movement to save Muir Woods was organized by women? Check out this link for a short video about it.

Muir Woods is a great place to see some amazing redwood trees, check out the history here, and take in a few hikes. I highly recommend that you check out Muir Woods National Monument!

Check out their website before heading there to see any restrictions and closures going on now.

Happy 113th!