The National Parks, America's Best Idea

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National Parks America’s Best Idea rebroadcasts on WSKG TV April 25-30, 2016 at 9pm.


 

Take a historic look behind the development of America’s National Parks with Ken Burns’ six-part film series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Relive the epic scenery as Ken Burns takes you on a chronological journey through the inspiration and development behind America’s most beloved preserved lands.

Filmed over more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska -this program is a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving the land they loved.

View more National Parks: America’s Best Idea on the WSKG video page.

The narrative traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews, and what Burns believes is the most stunning cinematography in Florentine Films’ history, the series chronicles the steady addition of new parks through the stories of the people who helped create them and save them from destruction. It is simultaneously a biography of compelling characters and a biography of the American landscape.

With 391 units (58 national parks, plus 333 national monuments and historic sites), the National Park Service has a presence in 49 of the 50 states (Delaware is the sole exception). Like the idea of freedom itself, the national park idea has been constantly tested, is constantly evolving and is inherently full of contradictory tensions: between individual rights and the community, the local and the national; between preservation and exploitation, the sacred and the profitable; between one generation’s immediate desires and the next generation’s legacy.
As America expanded westward, pioneers would “discover” landscapes of such breathtaking and unusual beauty that written descriptions of the lands were sometimes assumed by people in the East to be works of fiction. Eventually, there emerged a belief that these special places should be kept untarnished by development and commerce so that they could be experienced by all people.

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