Care for the Environment

I made arrangements for my trip with the Youth Group so that I could visit the one National Park in Vermont. I was hoping that I might also get the one National Park in New Hampshire. Got the one, missed the other, but completed four National Parks on the trip.

The Saint Gaudens NHS in New Hampshire will have to wait for another day. I could only squeeze so much into the thirty hours off between the Middle School SERVE trip and the High School SERVE trip.

Conservation is part of the way that most Americans think today. But it wasn’t always that way. I remember when Earth Day was new, and care for the environment was something radical.

The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP recognizes the contributions of three conservationists that all owned this property. George Perkins Marsh grew up here. After

serving in Congress in the 1840s, he served as a diplomat in Turkey and Italy and saw the destruction that people caused through development of the land. He wrote Man and Nature in 1864, one of the first books on responsible land stewardship. The book was influential to John Muir.

We think of Vermont as untouched wilderness. But it wasn’t always that way. When you walk in the woods, have you ever wondered why there would be a stone wall in the middle of the forest? In the mid-1800s, 90% of Vermont’s forests had been removed by logging and cleared for raising sheep. The cleared hillsides also led to silting of the rivers and devastating flooding.

Vermont native Frederick Billings returned from working in California during the gold rush to buy this property, and determined that restoration of the forest was not only possible, but an obligation. He hired a professional farm manager, who established wise stewardship of the property as a model for other farmers. He restored the forest on a mountain on the property.IMG_1049

Billings was involved in the preservation of Yosemite (another project of John Muir). He was President of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and planted 400,000 trees along the railroad. What town was named after him?

After his death, his wife, his daughters, and eventually his granddaughter continued his stewardship efforts. His granddaughter married Laurence Rockefeller, son of the oil magnate. John Rockefeller taught his son to love the outdoors, and introduced him to people that were building the National Park System. The Rockefellers donated land that became part of 20 National Parks, including the Smokies, Acadia, the Tetons, and Virgin Islands NP (can I include that one in the 100?)

On the porch, I met a couple from California that volunteers at the War in the Pacific NHP.

Porch View

They were originally from Hanover, NH and on their way to a high school class reunion. We agreed we could get used to sitting on the porch, enjoying the view.

Time was running out, so I didn’t try to get to the National Park in New Hampshire. I may have another opportunity to visit later this year. Later in the week, I got a surprise, though. We were hiking to a mountain view spot, and I saw the sign that we were on the Appalachian Trail. That’s the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. When I planned the 100 Parks Challenge, I did not expect to get the AT, since my rules require that I actually experience the park, not just stop in for a quick visit. There weren’t any stamps hanging on a tree or rock, so I still need to find an office to collect a stamp. Marsh-Billings Rockefeller is number 70 and Appalachian Trail is number 73. So glad to have Tim Desilets and high school SERVE students sharing the AT trip with me.


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