Celebrating a century of preservation

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2016

By Senator Tim Kaine

In 1786, while living in Paris, Thomas Jefferson recalled his Virginia home to his friend Maria Cosway, writing, “Where has Nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye? Mountains, forests, rocks, rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious Sun, when rising as if out of a distant water, just gilding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature!”

Two hundred thirty years later, Jefferson’s magnificent words remain an accurate description of Virginia.

Email newsletter signup

We largely owe the persistence of our commonwealth’s beauty to Teddy Roosevelt, who, in 1906, signed the Antiquities Act to begin preserving valuable American lands as national monuments. Ten years later, following the strong conservationist principles of Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, which created the National Park Service and directed it to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of NPS. During the past century, it has preserved our country’s cherished natural and cultural landscapes, and I am encouraging all Virginians to celebrate its centennial by exploring the commonwealth’s national parks this year.

In Virginia alone, NPS manages 21 parks. In Virginia Beach, you can see where English colonists first landed at Cape Henry, then drive north along the Colonial Parkway to road-trip through America’s colonial history from where it began in Jamestown to where it ended at Yorktown.

Boaters and hikers can explore the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, navigating the rivers and creeks where Virginia’s indigenous people used to fish, trade and hunt and where John Smith and his crew first mapped the waterways of the Old Dominion. This water-based trail spans from the Chesapeake all the way up the James, York and Potomac Rivers and even reaches cities as far away as Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Those interested in a park that spans multiple states could travel the Star Spangled Banner Trail and visit all the places along the Chesapeake that saw enemy raids and naval blockades during the War of 1812.

If you’re interested in even more parks, Fort Monroe National Monument, Assateague Island and innumerable sites along the Chesapeake Watershed are all within driving distance.

Whether you choose to explore the parks near your home or decide to go on an adventure to Shenandoah, Cumberland Gap or one of the many other parks in the Commonwealth, I hope you will take advantage of the cultural richness and natural wonder that NPS maintains.

While April was National Parks Month and special due to NPS’s centennial, parks are open year-round. Go enjoy their beauty with the people you love. While you’re there, tweet your pictures, using the hashtag #VAisforNPSLovers. You may even see me on the trails.

Tim Kaine is one of Virginia’s two U.S. senators. Visit his website at www.kaine.senate.gov.