It’s ironic that just three days before partisan politics pushed the federal government into a shutdown that forced the closure of Mount Rainier National Park and associated economic impacts affecting the lives of furloughed workers and busineses with fewer potential customers, the place was imbued with a selflessness that our leaders in Washington, D.C. could learn from.
National Public Lands Day, which was observed Sept.28, represented the best of attitudes. Volunteers were invited to work with Washington Trails Association members and Park Service employees in various projects at the park, such as trail maintenance around Paradise and in a campground at Longmire that’s used throughout each year by volunteers and school groups.
This annual celebration of public involvement in the stewardship of America’s national, state and local parks and forests is a perfect example of the public stepping up and taking ownership in one of its most important assets. And it doesn’t happen just one day out of the year. Nearly 2,000 people have volunteered at Mount Rainier in 2013, according to grateful park officials.And last year, 1,804 people gave 74,615 hours of their time maintaining trails, patrolling wilderness areas, and doing other volunteer work that officials valued at $1.6 million.
Nationally, more than 170,000 people were expected to participate in last month’s National Public Lands Day events all over the country. They were once again putting the greater good ahead of themselves. It’s too bad Congress couldn’t have taken the higher ground instead of using public trust and resources as a political pawn.
The Dispatch editorials are written by editor Pat Jenkins.