President Obama's Visit - Beauty as well as Bread
I listened to Pres. Obama carefully on Tuesday evening when he gave his State of the Union address. It was a good message, a message of hope and enthusiasm. We can't just cut, cut, cut. We have to grow the economy and give people opportunities. That's the American way and I agree. But he talked about jobs, jobs, job but not one word on our public lands. It's as if Americans just needed to work and eat, work and eat.
John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”
However, the President just talked about bread or jobs. According to National Parks Conservation Association, national parks generate over $31 billion for the local economy. When Congress feels the need to shut down the government, the first thing they shut down is National Parks. As if parks were the only nonessential federal service.
Poor and middle-class Americans may not have the money or opportunity to recreate on private land. This is where public parks and forests come in. Compare the entrance fee for Yosemite - $20 for a carload for seven days - with Disneyworld where a one-day ticket is $89.
Many state parks are free and closer to where people live. And of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free. The best bargain in America? An America the Beautiful Pass.
The next day Wednesday February 13, the President came to Asheville. And for a few hours, the eyes of the world were on us. He toured the Linamar plant, a Canadian auto parts manufacturer. We're grateful that Linamar moved in when Volvo left. They provide good jobs and make use of a large manufacturing site. Then the President had a lunch of ribs and sides from 12 Bones.
But he had no time or thought about the natural surroundings around him. The Blue Ridge Parkway was very close, Great Smoky Mountains National Park not much further. Businesses move here partly because of the beauty and accessibility of the outdoors.
The Asheville area has three National Parks (also Carl Sandburg House) less than an hour's drive. All three need our love, attention, and money. All the volunteers in the world (and I'm one of them) can't replace properly funding our public lands. Outdoor professionals need to have enough money in their budge to manage our parks.
So, President Obama, the next time you want to give a speech of hope and opportunity, think of our public lands. They're distinctly American as well.