Sustainability and the National Parks (Virginia)
Saturday, March 17th – Saturday, March 24th
Leaders: Hannah Gu and Steven Russell
Trip Fee: $150
Last year, nearly three million people visited America’s national parks—a classification which includes preserved ecological systems like the Everglades as well as famous historical sites such as Valley Forge. After establishing the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, the National Parks Service was created by Princeton’s own Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to oversee its operation and protection. While the number of national parks grew, however, their regulation remained lax—car-sized holes were carved in Yosemite’s giant sequoias, handkerchiefs were dropped into Yellowstone’s geysers to encourage eruption, and much federal land was still being used for logging, mining, and development.
As the national parks system has evolved, the concerns surrounding national parks have evolved as well. Join us in Virginia as we explore the evolution of the national parks system and the challenges it faces today. We will spend a portion of the week in Washington, D.C. in our quest to understand the history of the National Park System, as well as its current organizational structure under the federal government. Our remaining time will be spent outdoors in parks around the D.C. area, including Shenandoah National Park, Historic Jamestown, and the Chesapeake Bay, where we will explore such issues as pollution and economic development as they relate to the parks. Throughout the trip, we will focus on the interaction between national parks and surrounding communities—how does the proximity of a large tract of protected land affect a small neighborhood? And, alternatively, how does nearby development affect the park itself?