Michelle, Our National Parks Need You

Only first lady can stem wilting interest in US' 'attics of history'
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2009 10:12 AM CDT
First Lady Michelle Obama works with fifth graders as they harvest some of the vegetables that they planted in the garden at the White House.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – Last year, more people visited areas run by the National Parks Service than attended NFL, NBA, MLB, and NASCAR games combined. Still, Timothy Egan writes in the New York Times, the 274 million visits amount to a national crisis. “Our shared outdoor spaces, our attics of history and graveyards of sacrifice are being overlooked,” he writes, and only one person can save them: Michelle Obama.

The first lady has already prompted a renaissance for kitchen gardens, and could do the same for national parks, expanding the diversity of visitors beyond the “generally white, fairly prosperous, sensible-shoe-wearing adults,” to kids beholden to Facebook, Xbox, TV, and texting. The parks need “Obama-era branding,” Egan says, because “this land, this history, is a shared birthright. But we are absentee owners, at best, if we don’t create a new generation of stewardship.”