The sun beams down approvingly as I start hiking the head-turning White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The temperature sits in a perfect zone somewhere between warm and cool. Not a trace of humidity moistens the air, while an idyllic breeze stirs it enough to keep the ravenous mosquitoes and black flies at bay. This landscape never ceases to amaze me. Traveling to the White Mountain National Forest has been a family tradition for generations, but once my family moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina, we stopped going.
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Not wanting to lose my relationship to the place I love, I have traveled back by myself to volunteer and work there the past two summers and during my gap year. Only by immersing myself in the White Mountains for extended periods of time have I come to really realize its historical significance and rugged landscape. In creating a course about America’s public lands, I believe I could foster and share the appreciation I have with others. Public lands are American treasures- they inspire us, uplift our spirits, and serve as powerful reminders of our national origins and destiny. Established under the historical context of westward expansion and frontier ideology, many of these lands were claimed unjustly, scarring the integrity of the landscape. Simultaneously, public lands worked to protect and conserve ecologically sensitive and attractive landscapes for the sake of future generations.
The class I would like to create would seek to understand these complexities and challenge the role that national parks play in political, societal, economic, and environmental spheres throughout history up to the present day.With over 7 million visitors per a year, $485,800,000 raised yearly from tourism, and the first state in the nation to establish an official holiday in honor of its public lands, there is no doubt that Colorado’s identity, culture, and economy are connected to its public lands. My course would utilize the college’s advantageous location to provide a hands-on learning experience.
Debate and discussion would continue on the road and at various nearby parks such as: Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park. This course differs from others at Colorado College that have a broader examination of environmental movements and American history and may only briefly touch upon the importance of public lands. Despite the fact that public lands still capture the imagination of visitors and provide necessary educational, scientific and conservation data, their livelihoods are threatened by funding cuts, downsizing, and pressure from the tourism industry. An exploration into the history and current status of public lands is not only important, but necessary. My hope is that my course would appeal to the environmentally-savvy and justice oriented student body of Colorado College and provide a deeper appreciation for nature and state.