Janean Mann on the Healing Power of Our Parks

Mann.Janean at Big Bend 2.2016

I can’t say that I have ever been in a national park in which I’ve been disappointed.

I have so many vivid memories from my visits to parks. The giant redwood trees in California first blew my mind when I was three years old. One is struck by the astonishing beauty of the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon and the tranquility of Big Bend at sunrise with so many birds circling overhead. Whether it’s climbing Mt. Rainier or viewing flocks of overwintering birds on Assateague Island, it is hard not to be awed by nature’s bounty in our country.

As a retired member of the Foreign Service, I’ve travelled to more than one hundred countries. I’ve seen a lot of amazing places. But nowhere in the world have I seen anything that comes close to our national park system. It is available to everyone for only a nominal fee. Each park provides a different learning experience along with peace and beauty.

I support the National Park Foundation because I’m angry that the government is not giving the parks the funding they need and want to make sure that future generations will be able to enjoy the parks that so many of us take for granted but which can be so easily destroyed.

Rock Creek Park here in my hometown of Washington, DC, is my backyard. I go there almost every morning for a three-mile walk. I believe the park helped save my life some years ago. Very aggressive cancer treatments really wore me down. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would survive. But taking walks in the park helped. One day as I walked the trails, five pileated woodpeckers landed in the trees right above me. That lovely moment on the trail lifted my spirits and the exercise my daily walks provided helped me on my journey to recovery.

As a nation, we must continue our strong commitment to protecting our natural and historic treasures. I lived in Tunisia where they have a lot of Roman ruins but no system for protecting them. It’s sad. I’ve left a bequest to the National Park Foundation because it’s very important to invest in preserving our parks. People may enjoy the Mona Lisa, but I don’t think I have ever seen a piece of art to match the beauty you find in nature. These gorgeous, natural wonders and the wildlife protected therein need protection now! They’re irreplaceable.