Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visiting and Creating National Treasures

This rambly post started out as a catalog of the nature shots from our recent Maine vacation. Then I flew off on a tangent about how nature was preserved and enhanced by the rich. Then it occurred to me that great parks were also created by the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). And finally I swerved to discuss what hiking and traveling means to me and the favorite places I have visited. Each one of these topics could fill many posts, but here's the current mess and perhaps I'll elaborate later.

I love visiting national parks, historic homes and beautiful gardens. Hiking gives me a feeling of challenge and peace at the same time. Exploring history stokes my curiosity and admiration for remarkable men and women. Looking at natural vistas, waterfalls, enormous sequoias, or mossy swamps rejuvenates my creativity. In all these situations, the stresses of the world fade away.

Some of the favorite places I have visited include: California's Yosemite, King's Canyon National Park, Route 1 corridor, and Mono Lake, Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, Virginia's Monticello, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and now Acadia National Park and its surrounding gardens.

Thuya Garden
(named for the northern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis, woods that surround it) is a beautiful tended English style garden outside Acadia National Park. Along with the Asticou Azalea Garden (a Japanese style garden) that I long to see in bloom, it's a worthwhile stop on a trip to the central Maine Coast. I sound like a tour director. But really, they are tended by the nonprofit Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, and deserve a visit.

These gardens and the National Park itself are oddly a tribute to the very rich of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The gardens are preserved now in perpetuity thanks to the estate of Joseph Henry Curtis, a Boston landscape architect and civil engineer, who "summered" in this part of Maine for almost 50 years. After his death he donated the land to the preserve. Charles K. Salvage, a local landscape designer renovated and further designed the gardens with plants purchased form the collection of Beatrix Farrand.

Acadia's carriage roads and stone bridges were built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. over 27 years with his family fortune. It's odd owing thanks to the largess of Rockefellers, Carnegies and others who made their fortunes by exploiting and monopolizing labor and land, but then donated and created national parks and cultural institutions through their generocity.

I enjoyed camping in Acadia. But how would it feel to have "summered" here in your own beautiful home with servants and cooks? To build 45 miles of carriage roads and bridges because you love riding your horses around and wanted to created beautiful drives and views? This is not to say, this is only way to create these wonders. During the depression the New Deal's CCC created amazing roads, trails, and facilities.

"By March of 1933, 13,600,000 people were unemployed in the United States. In the face of this emergency, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two days after his inauguration, called a meeting of government officials to create a Civilian Conservation Corps. Roosevelt intended to put 500,000 unemployed youths to work in forests, parks and range lands across the country.

"In its nine years, the CCC employed more than three million men and left an undeniable imprint on the nation's landscape. The CCC built more than 40,000 bridges, planted two billion trees, restored nearly 4,000 historic sites and structures, improved thousands of beaches, roads and shorelines, and created 800 state parks."
from this website.

What could we accomplish if today's bankers did generous things with their money? What could we accomplish if we put the unemployed to work creating the most beautiful national seashore on the gulf coast? Let's go to glorious places and determine how to make the world a more beautiful place.


Amelia said...

Oh gosh, these remind me of the beautiful places I used to visit as a child with my family. I love nature spots particularly because of living in a city :)


heather said...

oh that gave me goosebumps. i love how you think. roosevelt was brilliant.

we went to acadia for our honeymoon!! magical out there.