When I was a kid in Jacksonville, Florida, I was very active in Boy Scouts. We went on camping trips nearly every month, all across the state. My father also took me fishing and boating. We spent a lot of our time outside and I learned to love and respect nature.
So, it’s probably not a surprise that when I met my future wife Brenda, I ended up proposing to her at the Peaks of Otter. It’s just one of many memorable moments our family has had in national parks over the years. We’ve hiked all over this country, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the depths of the Grand Canyon.
Most recently, we had the incredible experience of getting caught in a rain squall while hiking a crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As we weathered the wind and rain, we watched the steam rise from the fissures. We never felt more connected to Earth than we did in this moment.
The national parks are central to nearly all our travel. Now, we make a point to include our granddaughters, who live in Oregon, when we visit out west. The girls both love nature and it’s rewarding to see that love increase with each trip we take.
As I get older, I think about what I can do to give back … to pay it forward for future generations. I want my granddaughters to be able to enjoy the parks as much as I have for as long as they live. But I worry that funding to the national parks has been cut tremendously — making it harder to protect these national treasures.
My wife and I decided to leave a gift to the National Park Foundation in our will because everyone should have the opportunity to explore, study, and enjoy these unspoiled lands of our country. We want to do our part to keep the parks vibrant and available … for my granddaughters, for their generation, and for everyone who comes after.