Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The National Park Service is Formed

In tonight's episode of The National Parks: America's Best Idea, Grand Canyon and Acadia are the featured parks. Many people had wanted the Grand Canyon to be a National Park for a long time, and it was finally designated as such in 1919, the same year as Acadia.

Acadia brings me to my gripe about this series. In the greater scheme of things it is only an annoyance, but nevertheless I don't like it. Burns repeatedly fails to give us fine historical detail such as the fact that Acadia's original name was Sieur de Monts National Monument. The show implies that it was Acadia National Monument. Likewise, he fails to mention that it was made a National Park under the name of Lafayette National Park, which was later changed to Acadia NP, though he is clear that there was some name other than Acadia at the time. I am also still irritated that he completely ignored the second National Park, Mackinac NP. To his credit, he did point out that Zion NP's original name was Mukuntuweap National Monument.

Putting my gripes aside, this was my favorite episode so far, as it focused on the birth of the National Park Service, my favorite government agency, and its first director, Stephen Mather. His assistant, Horace Albright, who succeeded him as director, also features prominently. I might point out here that Albright's book, The Birth of the National Park Service, is a great read. I had forgotten what an impediment Gifford Pinchot, the head of the Forest Service, was. Burns makes sure to point this out in tonight's and last night's episodes. It is always fun to have a bad guy around, especially when we know things turned out fine in the end.

We are halfway done with the series now, and I am convinced that it is the television event of the century, just as I had assumed it would be. Ken Burns rules!

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