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When I recently read that U.S. National Parks were waiving entrance fees, I was stunned, even though that has happened from time to time in recent years.

But with the coronavirus sweeping across the country, Americans being encouraged if not ordered to stay at home, is this the best time to encourage our citizens to visit what documentary film maker, Ken Burns, has called America’s Best Idea”?

And who in Donald Trump’s Administration is the author of that “Make America Great Again” idea? Was it Interior Secretary David Bernhardt or Trump himself?

Like many of us I have had a long-time “love affair” with our National Parks.

When I was a young kid, my parents took me up to Mount Rainier, a relatively short trip by car from our home in Seattle, to sled on the giant volcano’s snow slopes while others skied nearby.

(National Park Service Photo)

And in 1968 I met a young woman during trips to Yosemite National Park who I eventually dated, married, honeymooned with in Yosemite, and am still with fifty-two years after our first “national park encounter” (which I guarantee you didn’t require “social distancing”).

I’ve been to all of the major parks in the West.

In addition to Rainier and Yosemite, my “life list” includes Olympic, North Cascades, Crater Lake, Lassen, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Tetons, Grand Canyon, and a whole slew of other “not quite a park” parks, such as Point Reyes National Seashore, and lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

(Grand Canyon National Park Flickr Photo)

So great. Entrance fees are waived.

But Yosemite is closed due to the virus.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Closed.

Carlsbad Caverns. Closed

Elsewhere, like Death Valley National Park, Redwood National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, Mount Rainer and Olympic National Park in Washington state, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and Yellowstone, the “mother of all parks” the parks are “open” but trails, facilities and services are closed.

And along your journeys to those parks you may find that motels, restaurants, gas stations and airports are either closed or offering limited service.

And if you finally make it to one of those parks, will lodging and food service in the park be open?“America’s Best Idea” was not to encourage visitors to travel to our national parks when the whole country is in the throes of a pandemic that will sicken and kill many of us.

(El Tovar Lobby Courtesy of Hastin M Under CC 2.0 License)

“Wait ‘til next year” is my advice.

Trust me. The U.S. National Parks are indeed our “Best Idea.” I’ve “Been There and Seen Them.”

And unlike you and me, they are not going anywhere right now.

Keep them in your dreams. Those dreams will one day come true.

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