2009 Junior Ranger Essay Contest Winners

First Place

Skyler Baldwin

San Diego, CA

National parks are important to me because they help to preserve valuable land, protect the habitats of animals and protect our heritage. National parks are all so different, offering everything from grassy and wavy, to rocky, to mountains, lakes and rivers to coastlines. They help animals stay alive, healthy and safe and help people to appreciate nature. Another reason parks are important is because they are outstanding places for family vacations. You can see geysers explode, go fishing, hike on fabulous trails, see beautiful wildlife including birds, bears, elk, and deer, snowmobile through forests, rock climb, canoe, explore and see the most amazing natural sights. In addition, they teach people who are not familiar with the outdoors about nature, wildlife, conservation, preservation and outdoor recreation. They teach us so much about our history, culture and heritage. As young children, the more we go to parks, the more we can teach our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about them. The more parks we visit, the more our generation will appreciate them.

I have some great ideas to protect our parks for the future. First, national parks should tap into the youth culture using celebrities because that is who the youth of America listen to these days. I love American Idol and I think national parks should get Ryan Seacrest to announce National Parks Day and inform the audience (which is millions) about the beauty of national parks and remind them to help parks by donating money or volunteering with repairing or cleaning trails or even just by visiting them. I also think that parks should get pictures of stars at national parks to make kids want to say, "Hey, Angelina Jolie stood here!" or "Miley Cyrus loves Yosemite!" They could be put on websites, magazines, and brochures or any media exposure, like on the AOL welcome page or the cover of a teen magazine. Another great idea is to make a national parks video game. The subjects could be: that you have to save the endangered animals; or, make it around a map of national parks that have obstacles, like a herd of elk, bears, a stream, a waterfall, a Ranger, and beat other people's times; or, even get on a Wii game where you have to save animals or get rid of bad people like smokers, or people that litter, or feed the wildlife or don't put out their campfires.

In conclusion, national parks are important to me, to our country and to the world, and we need to make sure they are here for the future, for my children and theirs.

As the first prize winner, Skyler is directing a $5,000 contribution from the National Park Foundation to Yosemite National Park.

Second Place

Jason Roy Maki

Marysville, WA

When I see or even think about a national park, it is like no other feeling I've ever had. A national park is like a special cabinet that contains memories that are filled with truly special natural treasures. When you see a picture of a national park on post card, on TV or in a movie, you will probably say, "Wow! That is beautiful!" But actually being at a national park and seeing it in person is even more wonderful and breathtaking. When you go to the zoo and see an animal up close it is very interesting. But imagine that same thrill in the wild – in an animal's habitat. Habitat is the natural place where an animal lives — like the forest, the meadows, the lakes and ponds, the rivers, mountains, valleys and the prairie.

I love Grand Teton National Park the best. When I visit, I always see elk, deer, black bear, grizzlies, moose, bison, wolves, bald eagles, and more. I've seen an eagle and an osprey fighting over a fish. I've seen a little baby moose with its mother at the edge of the Snake River. I've seen a pair of grizzly cubs wandering out in the middle of a green meadow with their mother close by. And I've even seen a rare black wolf running across a snow field. But not all things are exactly what I'd call peaceful. I've watched a huge bison lit up against the night sky when lightning struck the mountains. I went swimming with my cousins and came out of a beautiful lake covered in leeches! Ahhhhh! I was even surprised by a black bear ten feet away when I walked around a pickup truck! Even though I've had a few scary experiences, it should never stop you from visiting a national park.

National parks are fun places to learn about things that you could never experience anywhere else. That's why we have to take care of them. We have to follow all national park rules. They are more than just rules. They are choices we make to help our parks survive forever. Don't litter a park. Don't feed the animals because they forget how to feed naturally. Make sure campfires are dead out with water. Forest fires are caused every year by careless campers who do not put their fires out. I would like to propose a contest where school kids everywhere come up with a few things to protect and preserve our national parks. We could have a reading program where school kids read about a neat national park. Then they could maybe visit one for themselves some day. I know they will enjoy every moment. That I can promise.

We the people own the national parks. They are ours. That is why we need to protect our parks and preserve them forever.

As the second prize winner, Jason is directing a $2,000 contribution from the National Park Foundation to Grand Teton National Park.

Third Place

Caroline Bollinger

McLean, Virginia

Prodigious trees, vast plains, colorful leaves, and cascading waterfalls — these are only a few of the wonders that exist in national parks. When I visit a park I enjoy the surprises that unfurl as I explore the hiking trails and the variety of wildlife. I love going to my local parks, which include Great Falls and Roosevelt Island. Ever since I was a toddler, hiking on the boardwalk at Roosevelt Island has been among my favorite things to do. I also enjoyed flying kites with my Grandpa on the National Mall. Even though he has passed on, he left with me his love for nature and our national parks.

Another big part of national parks is history. The national monuments and battlefields each tell a small story that together becomes a large textbook of history with all the places combined. Going to the parks is fun, educational for history novices, and a great adventure for history buffs. One great history location is Fords Theatre, the place of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. I have seen two presentations there, and both have been entertaining and information rich. I think protecting the national parks is extremely important.

I have an idea that I think will not only help national parks, but will also give young people a chance to help keep the parks in top shape. My idea is similar to the Peace Corps; it’s called Nature Corps. In this program, new college graduates would have a chance to volunteer a year of their time to working in the parks. The program would provide each individual with lodging and a basic salary. This money would be enough to cover the costs of essentials such as food and clothing. The participants would help spread awareness about the parks and educate citizens about the parks’ needs. They’d clean up the parks by doing indoor and outdoor custodial chores. The volunteers would also help with the upkeep of the park and learn a lot about ecology, history and other subjects. They would also get job experience. In addition, there could be a Junior Nature Corps too. This is where young kids and teens would have the opportunity to volunteer at national parks for community service experience and enjoyment. This segment would cost no funds, but could have the potential of being just as important as the regular Nature Corps. Through these programs, young Americans would be able to make a difference and develop a love for the parks to last throughout their lives.

Nature is restorative and peaceful, and the national parks make that available even for people living in urban areas. The parks help give everyone the chance to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy wildlife and plants. With the help of the Nature Corps, these parks would be preserved for many future generations to enjoy. So maybe someday another girl like me will have the chance to fly kites and hike in these beautiful parks, looking just like they did in my generation.

As the third prize winner, Caroline is directing a $1,000 contribution from the National Park Foundation to Great Falls Park.

Honorable Mention (2)

Kelsey Fosstveit

Mountainville, NY

Twas the day to protect national parks, when all through the USA
Wildlife and natural wonders were stirring, inspiring places must stay
Teddy Roosevelt said the wilderness must be preserved with care
In hopes that treasures of landscapes would always be there
The rare beautiful animals were nestled in lakes, seashores, and caves
While wide open spaces certainly must be saved
And for millions of Americans it is the scene of a family vacation
Vital green space is worth preservation

When out in remote regions arose unspoiled land,
People sprang to natural amusement parks first hand
Away from intrusions of everyday life
Sunrises, whispering breezes and glorious mountains take away strife
The leisure activities improve moods and calm stress
Guided tours and walks in mid-day are best
When, wildlife codes should be obeyed
Flowers, bird's eggs, logs and bush rocks must stay where they stay
Leave your pets at home, so lively and quick
Following National Park's fire regulations aren't a trick

More rapid than ever rubbish must be put in a bin
National Parks are owned by all to win
Now Yellowstone! Now Yosemite! Now Bryce and Grand Canyon!
On Arches! On Acadia! On Everglades and Zion
To the top of the earth, the top of the sky
Preservation! Preservation! Preservation we cry!

National Parks Recreational Programs keep us physically fit
Biking, hiking, and swimming, don't let us sit
So plant native plants local to the land
Grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees reinvest with a hand
And then use public transportation while going to the park
The air pollution from cars and trucks will be put in the dark
As we reduce, reuse, recycle we turn the parks around
Critical wildlife habitat will abound
National parks and symbols don't belong to one
Protecting habitats permanently in national parks provides fun!

Tom Goodwin

Raleigh, NC

A park I’ve been to was the Over Mountain Victory Trail of North Carolina. I visited a portion of the trail, but there is only a portion available. This is sad to me because of all the great time periods in America, my favorite is the Revolutionary War. This trail is where the North Carolinians walked from Virginia to South Carolina, where they battled the British on Kings Mountain. I like this trail because I am from North Carolina, I love the Revolution and the North Carolinians were told they couldn’t win this battle, but they did.

Now the trail is somewhat accessible, but only a small part of it. Most of the trail is covered by roads or running through private property. Now I think this a big part of American history that should be uncovered. I think that it would be really good if someone could uncover more of this trail for us and for future generations. My mom knows a guy who actually discovered his ancestor’s grave, along with the graves of other soldiers, by riding up and down that trail. This man could’ve ridden up and down that mountain for years not finding it because it hasn’t been preserved and hasn’t been made a real trail.

Now if the state of North Carolina, the National Park Service or the United States of America put in a little money and some effort, people could walk the same trail their ancestors walked on. I might have had an ancestor that walked on that trail and I would like to walk the same trail as him or her, and I think this would make a great national park and be something to make people proud of their family. But even if we’re not related to the people who walked that trail, we should be aware of the great soldiers that fought in the battle of Kings Mountain and gave us our freedom.