2023 Week Seven: The National Parks: How America’s ‘Best Idea’ is Meeting 21st-Century Challenges

August 5–12

In 1872, two years before the founding of Chautauqua, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into a law a bill creating America’s first-ever national park. Now, 150 years after the creation of Yellowstone National Park, more than 400 sites around the country that honor not just the land, but the stories of America’s myriad peoples, have been added to that illustrious roster. How has what novelist and environmentalist Wallace Stegner once described as America’s “best idea” adapted and grown? What can the parks offer in our present moment, and how did COVID-19 drive America back to the land? From addressing conservation issues to stewarding our cultural and natural histories, how are national parks — and, in turn, we as citizens — modeling how to meet the challenges of our times? Most importantly, how can the national parks rise to the call to make public lands truly accessible to all Americans?