• Enjoy America’s Best Idea: Our National Park System

    Those seeking a thrilling opportunity to experience green living up close and personal should venture into the great American wilderness this summer, via the National Park system. As many people learned by watching the award-winning Ken Burns documentary, "National Parks: America's Best Idea," the USA has the most extensive and expertly managed park system in the world with almost 400 different parks and historical sites. Properties overseen by the NPS include battlefields, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. Each of these unique sites represents a uniquely precious and awe-inspiring asset belonging to the people of the United States.

    The North Country National Scenic Trail, for example, links scenic, natural, historic, and cultural areas in seven different states - Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The trail allows hikers to experience a variety of northern landscapes in a way that is similar to the design and intention of the more well-known Appalachian Trail. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, on the other hand, is focused upon celebrating the history of New Orleans, its people and architecture, and its world famous music

    Many Americans don't realize that the NPS also includes parks in the Virgin Islands, but there are several. Virgin Island National Park occupies some 7,000 acres of hills, valleys and beaches on the island of St. John. Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix is known for its prehistoric and colonial-era archeological sites and ruins, as well as stunning coral reefs, wild mangrove forests, and a spectacular underwater canyon. Meanwhile Buck Island Reef National Monument is a 176-acre island and surrounding coral reef ecosystem boasting a rare variety of native flora and fauna, including hawksbill turtles and brown pelicans.

    Then there is the Samoan archipelago - encompassing sections of the US Territory of American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa - 2,000 miles from Hawaii and a 10-hour flight from California. Samoan leaders and the NPS collaborate to preserve the most gorgeous natural features of this remote Polynesian paradise and its colorful landscapes and dramatic seascapes.

    Visit the NPS website at www.nps.gov for more information or to buy a discounted year-round pass for admittance to all the parks in the system. People age 62 and older can even get a $10 lifetime pass.

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