When I see or even think about a national park, it is like no other feeling I’ve ever had. A national park is like a special cabinet that contains memories that are filled with truly special natural treasures. When you see a picture of a national park on post card, on TV or in a movie, you will probably say, “Wow! That is beautiful!” But actually being at a national park and seeing it in person is even more wonderful and breathtaking. When you go to the zoo and see an animal up close it is very interesting.
But imagine that same thrill in the wild – in an animal’s habitat. Habitat is the natural place where an animal lives — like the forest, the meadows, the lakes and ponds, the rivers, mountains, valleys and the prairie.
I love Grand Teton National Park the best. When I visit, I always see elk, deer, black bear, grizzlies, moose, bison, wolves, bald eagles, and more. I’ve seen an eagle and an osprey fighting over a fish. I’ve seen a little baby moose with its mother at the edge of the Snake River. I’ve seen a pair of grizzly cubs wandering out in the middle of a green meadow with their mother close by. And I’ve even seen a rare black wolf running across a snow field.
But not all things are exactly what I’d call peaceful. I’ve watched a huge bison lit up against the night sky when lightning struck the mountains. I went swimming with my cousins and came out of a beautiful lake covered in leeches! Ahhhhh! I was even surprised by a black bear ten feet away when I walked around a pickup truck!
Even though I’ve had a few scary experiences, it should never stop you from visiting a national park.
National parks are fun places to learn about things that you could never experience anywhere else. That’s why we have to take care of them.
We have to follow all national park rules. They are more than just rules. They are choices we make to help our parks survive forever.
Don’t litter a park.
Don’t feed the animals because they forget how to feed naturally.
Make sure campfires are dead out with water. Forest fires are caused every year by careless campers who do not put their fires out.
I would like to propose a contest where school kids everywhere come up with a few things to protect and preserve our national parks. We could have a reading program where school kids read about a neat national park. Then they could maybe visit one for themselves some day.
I know they will enjoy every moment. That I can promise.
We the people own the national parks. They are ours. That is why we need to protect our parks and preserve them forever.
*Jason Roy Maki, age 10, was the 2nd place winner of the National Parks Essay Contest. He lives in Marysville, WA and will be directing a $2,000 contribution from the National Park Foundation to Grand Teton National Park.
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