July is National Parks and Recreation Month in the United States. First designated in 1984, Congress did not intend it to celebrate national parks, as some websites would have you believe. Rather, the purpose is to celebrate parks at all governmental levels and recreation in general, and to recognize and honor “the vital contributions of employees and volunteers in park and recreation facilities,” in the words of last year’s Congressional resolution.
Of its more noble purposes Congressman Daniel Lipinski of Illinois eloquently declared in 2006, “The purpose of National Recreation and Parks Month is not only to celebrate the start of summer programs but also to advocate for parks and recreation by encouraging communities to engage in outdoor physical activities and volunteering…. National Recreation and Parks Month is an important occasion to remind us of our dedication to the preservation of the environment, and serves as an aide-mémoire for all Americans to enjoy the natural wonders of our nation.”
Here at Peeling Back the Bark Headquarters (PBBHQ), we’re taking a different tact to celebrating the special month than others might. We’re avoiding the extreme heat by sitting in the shade of a park tree and reading about different aspects of park and recreation history from back issues of Forest History Today. Articles to peruse include biographical portraits of some movers and shakers, discussions on wilderness, a look at trends in recreation, and a reminder of the importance of parks to the American psyche. Suggested are the following: “Biographical Portrait: Perrine Moncrieff (1893-1979)” by Robin Hodge (Spring/Fall 2009); “Biographical Portrait: Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)” by Scott Gurney (Fall 2008); “The Latest on Trends in Nature-Based Outdoor Recreation” by H. Ken Cordell (Spring 2008); “Why the Nation Needs National Parks” by Hal Rothman (Spring/Fall 2007); “Biographical Portrait: Enos Abijah Mills (1870-1922)” by Byron Anderson (Spring/Fall 2007); “Driven Wild: The Problem of the Wilderness” by Paul Sutter (Spring 2002); “Backcountry Recreation – Not Roadless Areas” an interview by Harold K. Steen with Jack Ward Thomas (Spring 2002); and “Ah, Wilderness! But Why?” by James M. Glover (Spring 1999). Historical images of outdoor recreation may be found in our Flickr gallery.
We hope this list also “serves as an aide-mémoire for all Americans to enjoy the natural wonders of our nation.”