“There will never come an end to the good that [Mather] has done” – founding the National Parks
Story and photos by FITZ MAURICE
Almost exactly 100 years ago, on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was founded by Stephen Mather. Mather was a wealthy conservationist who led the publicity campaign to promote the creation of a unified federal agency to oversee the administration of the national parks. He became the first director of the National Park Service and served for 12 years. He so loved the national parks that he personally contributed his own money towards the acquisition of new parklands.
When Stephen Mather died, the Park Service erected bronze plaques in every park with these words: “There will never come an end to the good that he has done.”
There were other remarkable people who were passionate about supporting the National Park Service concept and foundation, including politicians like President Theodore Roosevelt, who during his presidency was instrumental in creating five national parks, 18 national monuments and preserving over 100 million acres of prime national forests.
I was excited to catch this photograph of a park ranger standing guard over a wandering mountain goat while I was up at the Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park, Montana. It’s fun to compare the profiles of the ranger and the goat, including their little chin goatees.
Then there were artists like Anselm Adams (acclaimed photographer) and John Muir (writer, spokesperson) who understood the value in what they saw and did their best to bring the importance of preserving these precious places by promoting them to politicians, wealthy contributors and the American people.
This is how America got its greatest idea: the formation of the National Park Service to preserve and protect some of the greatest landscapes on earth.
The truth is that each National Park a priceless treasure to Americans and all the people of the world. Its hundredth anniversary is well worth celebrating.
The National Parks are protected and preserved to a large degree because of the amazing work of park rangers. Especially now that I have been to 30 of the 59 National Parks in America, I realize how invaluable park rangers are. They protect the parks and wildlife from pressing crowds and natural disturbances. Rangers have a wealth of information and are happy to answer visitors’ questions and concerns.
I have learned to go straight to the Visitor Centers to get the free brochures that outline the highlights of each park and I always take the opportunity to ask a ranger my list of questions. Often my questions pertain to the specific time of year that I am there. For example, if it’s summer, I’ll ask where is the best lookout point is to watch the sunset. In winter I’ll ask which trails are closed due to snow conditions. From experience, I’ve learned to ask whether there are any seasonal attractions that might be occurring while I’m there. This is how I once found out about a celestial phenomenon in the night sky that I may have otherwise never been aware of.
The early days: building the Going to the Sun Road
In many of the parks, the Rangers offer guided tours that are a fun way to learn about the mysteries that stand in front of you. What a fabulous chance to learn about nature! And you will really want to understand more when you are there in the midst of monumental beauty.
Our National Parks have preserved America’s priceless collection of natural, historic and cultural treasures and our rangers are delighted to teach us about our planet, our history and ourselves.
To see some of my newest National Park Paintings, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com/index.html
2016 is the Fourth Year of my Quest – to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America! Now having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the Parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each Park; then hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, I set out to capture in paint, the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world!