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The Sound of Ideas

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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The National Parks: America’s Best Idea Ken Burns’ newest documentary tells the surprising history of the U.S. National Park System, an idea whose existence has so long been a part of the national fabric we can hardly imagine our country without it. After all, what would the American landscape be without the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone or The Smoky Mountains? America didn’t have to set all that land aside, but it did, including Ohio’s very own Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As the six-part documentary airs this week on WVIZ/PBS, join host Dan Moulthrop for a conversation with filmmaker Ken Burns and local parks employees about what our National Parks mean to all of us.


Arts and Culture, Environment, Government/Politics


Ken Burns, filmmaker
John Debo, former Superintendent, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Lisa Petit, Park Ranger, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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Andrejs (say Andre') 8:31 AM 9/29/09

I was mountain biking in the Los Padres National Forest, Condor Reserve when i came upon a great lookout.
I spent maybe 3 minutes resting on a rock looking outward and drinking some water.
I got back on my bike and headed toward another game trail to head down when I heard a small mewling noise to my right. Laying sunning on a rock was a cougar bitch nursing 2 cubs not 45ft away! Needless to say I moved away carefully and then biked away at high speed, but to see such a thing in the wild, with no protections will remember FOREVER…

Melissa 8:45 AM 9/29/09

For Ken Burns:  A few years ago, I had the privilege of spending time with the Blackfeet Indians on their reservation near Glacier National Park in Montana.  They claimed that the National Park Service had leased the land for Glacier Park from them, and that it was supposed to be returned, and was not.  Did you come across this story in your research, and can you speak to the issue of acquisition from Native Americans more generally?

David S. Hervol 8:48 AM 9/29/09

Ken Burns excellent documentary unfortunately glosses over the issues of eminent domain.  We have personal experience with the last private landowners on Oak Hill road in the Cuyahoga National Recreation Park.  The scare tactics and the so called “fair value” assessments for the land grab make for a story in themselves.  These people had to go to Washington D.C. to fight for their property rights.  That being said, these people have stated that limiting development in the valley has been a good thing.

Dave Hervol, Olmsted Township

William Ferry 8:48 AM 9/29/09

What is Mr. Burns thinking.  He and the woman from the program (chosen by him) are so proud that the parks are not the gift the wealthy deign to grant unto us.  But those comments are both ignorant and immoral because the government had to take, by force, the tax dollars from productive citizens.  Let’s please thank the taxpayers, who are the real heroes whose labors made these parks possible.

My favorite is Cuyahoga Valley!  I have found places where nobody goes, where I feel like it’s just me and the world.

Sandi Sammon 9:01 AM 9/29/09

Mr. Burns thank you for your beautiful informative program.  I agree with your thoughts about how the parks connect you not only with the sheer beauty but also with unforgetable moments in life.  My first park experience is similar to a first kiss:  I will always remember it.  I was about 7 years old and was taken to Mammoth Cave National Park for a school field trip.  I came from a family who didn’t take trips or visit museuams.  So when I was given this opportunity my eyes were opened.  My curiosity was struck.  Our teacher explained how we all “owned” this grand, amazing place.  It was from that park experience with the water, the caves, and the wildlife that I learned there was more out there in life.  Those cave entrances were in a sense the doors for a new beginning for that little disadvantaged girl from a small Southern town.  The memory stays with me always.

Joyce DeRemer 9:03 AM 9/29/09

What a timely program.  On the national level, my fiance and I just returned from Yosemite last week.  My goodness! The immensity, the natural beauty, the awesomeness of it all left an ever- lasting impression on both of us.  On a local level, my favorite Cuyahoga National Park memory was from several years ago along the tow path in Brecksville.  A female snapping turtle was actually depositing her eggs just a short distance off the path.  Incredible!

Michael 10:21 AM 9/29/09

I just returned last saturday from a 36 mile back packing trip to the high contry in yosemite, specificly the high sierra loop. although this was my fourth trip to yosemite, this trip has been harder to adjust being away from. I have spent the past couple days trying to figure out why and it finally dawned on me that yosemite has away of keeping part of your soul each time you visit it and this time it seem to take away a bigger part. I don’t know if it was due to the friends I was hiking with or the views that I saw but part of my heart and soul are still out in yosemite and I can’t wait to go find them agian next year.

Jerry, Hinckley, OH 9:59 AM 9/30/09

Back in the ‘80’s I took the family to Yellowstone and the Tetons several times.  I knew a park ranger in Yellowstone and he gave us some great tips on little known sites.One afternoon we followed one of his suggestions to a pond just outside Jackson Hole where an earthquake had created a warm spring. A few years back someone had added a few tropical fish to the warm pond and they had adapted very well.  So there we were on a sunny afternoon in August wading and submerging ourselves in five feet of crystal clear 80+ degree water surrounded by flourescent tropical yellows, greens, and blues and then surfacing to behold the majestic peaks and glaciers of the Tetons.

John, Cleveland 10:01 AM 9/30/09

I highly recommend taking the train to Peninsula.  The ride alone is worth it.  Then you can rent a bike and go on the bike path.

Joane, Cleveland 10:02 AM 9/30/09

I wonder, listening to Ken Burns, how many parks we would allow if THAT were the referendum today, instead of the Health Bill?  The same inane debate would continue to be used because this is the same thing on another scale.  I wonder how many people called Teddy Roosevelt a communist?

Thank you Ken for your documentaries.  As a 60 yr old black woman who loves to study the Civil War, suffice it to say, I was glued to the program.  WWII was great as were all the rest.

scott lowman 6:00 AM 1/30/10

Just want to thank you for this program. It is probably the best program i have ever seen. Very informative, interesting throughout. I was wondering if dvd’s are available?  This program should be seen by everyone.


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