The National Park Service was established in 1916, a hundred years ago, and the Missouri State Park system has jumped on the bandwagon to celebrate as well. It was actually sort-of created in 1917 as part of the state fish and game commission, but the first actual park wasn’t created until 1924.
But who’s counting? It’s always a good year to celebrate our state park system, round numbers or not, and the parks department is doing so by offering prizes for people who get a “passport” and have it stamped at their locations. Will I get my passport stamped at all 88 locations by the end of October 2017 and thus be eligible for the best prizes? Probably not, but what the heck, it’s only five bucks and a fun challenge to take on.
The Missouri Legislature has not earned much of a reputation for intellect lately, with various harebrained proposals that just keep coming. But many are mere posturing for political reasons. What really troubles me lately, though, are the short-sighted attempts to interfere with the state park system and the Conservation Department, including efforts to prevent the purchase of land along the Current and Eleven Point rivers. Thankfully, the Current River park has made it through, but there are still efforts going on to derail the Eleven Point purchase. The opportunity to put this kind of land into public use comes very rarely, and once lost may not be regained for generations. I understand the concern of local officeholders about the loss of property tax revenue, but that’s a problem that can be solved. Most ironic is the argument that “we don’t have enough money to maintain the parks we currently have, much less additional ones.” And whose fault is that? The same kill-the-government legislators, of course!
If we want to see our state park system enter its second century with a positive outlook, we need to insulate its operations from political intrusions and see that it gets proper funding. Our park system is the envy of most other states and should be kept that way.
Thanks for information and a plea that are both overdue. Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness.” I was fortunate enough to have grown up on 200 acres of deep North Georgia woods with a father who found his religion in those woods, and my life has been shaped by that experience. And Aldo Leopold wrote, “I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.” Many of our children, and all of our grandchildren have faced such a future.
Thanks for the thoughts, Dean! It does trouble me that the whole concept of the “public good” seems to get lost in our political discourse more and more. Something is lost when we talk about government as the mere balancing of interests….the legislators who established the state park system were acting not just for their day, but for citizens of the future who had no one to speak for their interests and who no one at that time could even imagine. Long-term thinking is harder and harder to find these days.
And here’s a recent opinion column discussing the various pieces of anti-park legislation: http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/oped/state-parks-under-legislative-attack/article_22b284e5-e2f0-5282-ad42-c63908bfb268.html