Prodigious trees, vast plains, colorful leaves, and cascading waterfalls — these are only a few of the wonders that exist in national parks. When I visit a park I enjoy the surprises that unfurl as I explore the hiking trails and the variety of wildlife.
I love going to my local parks, which include Great Falls and Roosevelt Island. Ever since I was a toddler, hiking on the boardwalk at Roosevelt Island has been among my favorite things to do. I also enjoyed flying kites with my Grandpa on the National Mall. Even though he has passed on, he left with me his love for nature and our national parks.
Another big part of national parks is history. The national monuments and battlefields each tell a small story that together becomes a large textbook of history with all the places combined. Going to the parks is fun, educational for history novices, and a great adventure for history buffs. One great history location is Fords Theatre, the place of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. I have seen two presentations there, and both have been entertaining and information rich.
I think protecting the national parks is extremely important.
I have an idea that I think will not only help national parks, but will also give young people a chance to help keep the parks in top shape. My idea is similar to the Peace Corps; it’s called Nature Corps. In this program, new college graduates would have a chance to volunteer a year of their time to working in the parks. The program would provide each individual with lodging and a basic salary. This money would be enough to cover the costs of essentials such as food and clothing. The participants would help spread awareness about the parks and educate citizens about the parks’ needs. They’d clean up the parks by doing indoor and outdoor custodial chores. The volunteers would also help with the upkeep of the park and learn a lot about ecology, history and other subjects. They would also get job experience.
In addition, there could be a Junior Nature Corps too. This is where young kids and teens would have the opportunity to volunteer at national parks for community service experience and enjoyment. This segment would cost no funds, but could have the potential of being just as important as the regular Nature Corps.
Through these programs, young Americans would be able to make a difference and develop a love for the parks to last throughout their lives.
Nature is restorative and peaceful, and the national parks make that available even for people living in urban areas. The parks help give everyone the chance to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy wildlife and plants.
With the help of the Nature Corps, these parks would be preserved for many future generations to enjoy. So maybe someday another girl like me will have the chance to fly kites and hike in these beautiful parks, looking just like they did in my generation.
*Caroline Bollinger, age 12, was the 3rd place winner of the National Parks Essay Contest. She lives in McLean, Virginia and as winner will be directing a $1,000 contribution from the National Park Foundation to Great Falls Park.
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