National parks get stimulus relief

April 22, 2009 6:56:26 PM PDT
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the National Park Service is getting $750 million in stimulus money for improvements, creating 20,000 jobs. The news came as filmmaker Ken Burns previewed his latest work Tuesday at the Presidio.

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Recovery dollars are coming to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Alcatraz, Fort Mason, and Muir Woods. The local job growth will emphasize green technology.

"We become a perfect to place to educate the public and demonstrate our own commitment to the issue of climate change," says Jon Jarvis, with the West Region Director from the National Park Service.

The announcement comes during a conference at the Fort Mason Center on national parks and diversity with a preview of filmmaker Ken Burns' new series on national parks.

"The story of national parks mirrors the story of America. Which is, in one version, an enlarging of freedom," says Burns.

It took six years to film his national park series which will be on DVD and PBS in September. It follows up successes on the Civil War, World War II, baseball and jazz.

"The word history -- and that's what we do -- is made up of the word 'story' and so many of us know that boring teacher that made it just about dry dates, fact, and events. We're interested in an emotional archeology that stirs your heart as well as your mind," says Burns.

Burns says we need to experience parks because we are all owners. More than 288 million people visited our national parks last year, but the parks' conference focused on why an unusually large number of ethnic minorities are not coming.

"I think a lot of it has to do with if your parents take you to a national park as a child, then they're passing on this cultural heritage because they recognize there's great value in the wilderness and national parks," says Yosemite park ranger Shelton Johnson, who has been a ranger for 22 years.

The stimulus package is welcome, but parks advocates say it's still not enough, which is why private groups like the Yosemite Fund step in to help preserve the park.

Ken Burns' "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" information

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