The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
April 24 through April 30, each night at 9:00 p.m.
This six-part documentary series directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the script, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns’s exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.
Monday, April 24 at 9:00 p.m. Part 1: 1851-1890
In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects Yosemite for “public use, resort and recreation”-the first time in world history that any government has proposed this idea. In 1872, Congress creates America’s first national park: Yellowstone.
Tuesday, April 25 at 9:00 p.m. Part 2: 1890-1915
A lack of congressional protection for the parks sparks a conservation movement by organizations such as the Sierra Club, led by John Muir; the Audubon Society, led by George Bird Grinnell; and the Boone and Crockett Club, led by Theodore Roosevelt.
Wednesday, April 26 at 9:00 p.m. Part 3: 1915-1919
The conservation movement pushes the government to establish one agency to oversee all the parks, leading to the National Park Service in 1916. Its first director seeks to protect the Grand Canyon from commercial interests and establish it as a national park.
Thursday, April 27 at 9:00 p.m. Part 4: 1920-1933
The advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. In Wyoming, John D. Rockefeller Jr. begins quietly buying up land in the Teton Mountain Range and valley in a secret plan to donate it to the government as a park.
Friday, April 28 at 9:00 p.m. Part 5: 1933-1945
In the midst of economic disaster and then a world war, the national parks provide jobs and then peace; the park idea changes to include new places and new ways of thinking; in Wyoming, battle lines are drawn along the front of the Teton Range.
Saturday, April 29 at 9:00 p.m. Part 6: 1946-1980
A stubborn iconoclast fights a lonely battle on behalf of a hated species; America’s “Last Frontier” becomes a testing ground for the future of the park idea; and American families pass on a love of the parks to the next generation.