Long to-do list for new US parks chief
(Page 3 of 3)
Chuck Cushman, leader of the American Land Rights Association, which has fought park expansion efforts in the past, recently wrote: "Now, with Jon Jarvis in charge of the Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association and their green allies have their best chance yet for an enormous park expansion plan, huge buffer zones around every park, and a multibillion-dollar land acquisition trust fund."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In a way, Jarvis sees his return to the nation's capital as a homecoming. His father worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Young Jon grew up in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, and "hunted and fished and climbed every mountain within sight of our door." His older brother, Destry Jarvis, is a professional conservationist.
Their parents taught them that the caretaking of natural resources is an honorable calling. Upon graduating from the College of William and Mary, in Williamsbug, Va., Jarvis toured the signature parks in the West – Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, North Cascades, and Zion – and knew he wanted to work in them. He now reports to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. His office is within easy reach of the National Mall, where Jarvis started his career in 1976 as a seasonal ranger handing out tourist maps.
"I like to tell people that back in those days parks were 'bigger' because the landscapes around them were more rural and wild," Jarvis says. "Today, we have development not only encircling our crown-jewel nature preserves, but look at some of the Civil War battlefields that basically are now in the middle of suburbs."
Wherever he has gone, friends say, Jarvis has courted relationships with local people and ethnic groups who haven't always felt welcome in parks. The fledgling director says he shares Secretary Salazar and President Obama's conviction that parks can be important places where young people can give back to their country through volunteer efforts or in domestic versions of foreign service.
PBS's recent popular series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," Jarvis says, demonstrated that the system's evolution and "is not just a white guy's story." The addition of important civil rights sites and urban parks offers a lens for discovery to all citizens, no matter what their ancestry.
The US park system – now with 391 parks, monuments, reserves, and other environmental treasures – turns a century old in 2016.•