The glorious rays of morning sun shine over the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. The vibrant shades of yellow, red, and orange dot the stunning Skyline Drive. The crisp, cool, autumn air rushes by the Big Meadows campground. Shenandoah in the fall looks and feels like heaven. No wonder 1.2 million people flock there every year, not just in the fall but all year ‘round. It’s hard to believe that this majestic place is only 75 miles from the bustle of our nation’s capital.
Every year, more than 1.2 million people travel to Shenandoah National Park, to catch a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains, to camp, to hike, and to enjoy all of the beauty that nature has to offer. The park covers 200,000 acres of protected land, and boasts 500 miles of trails and scenic overlooks.
But makes sure the park stays as majestic as nature intended? The National Park Service (NPS)!
The men and women of the NPS have devoted their careers to maintain our country's treasures, and make sure your visit is enjoyable and memorable. They keep the environment clean of litter and waste. They come to the rescue when visitors are hurt or lost. And the do this all while fighting off attempts to privatize the parks.
Throughout the 100-year history of the national parks, union members have had to fight for the rights and protections in place today. The popular Ken Burns series on the National Parks documents many examples of our parks that have been eyed by for-profit corporate powers who want to make a buck off the scenery. As a result of that greed, there have also been threats to the safety and well-being of working people who maintain the parks.
The job of protecting our parks is one that is passed on to every generation of Americans. And as older NPS workers grow and retire, they pass on the importance of the labor movement to their younger and newer colleagues.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once so eloquently said, "there is nothing so American as our national parks. The fundamental idea behind the parks...is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."
If employees don’t have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, that will undoubtedly affect visitors and threaten the future of our National Parks. We must do all we can to preserve and protect "America's Greatest Idea."