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People Behind the Parks

George Bird Grinnell, circa 1890 Add To Scrapbook

George Bird Grinnell, circa 1890

George Bird Grinnell (1849–1931)

Episode(s): 1, 2, 3, 4
Associated Park(s): Yellowstone

New York native George Bird Grinnell became one of the most significant advocates of the national park idea in the late 1800s.

Trained in ornithology and paleontology, he made several trips to the West as a young man, first as official zoologist to George Custer's expedition to the Black Hills in 1874, and then with a government survey to Yellowstone in 1875.

As editor and publisher of Forest and Stream, an influential sportsman's magazine in New York City, Grinnell used its pages to champion protection of Yellowstone, which he called "the people's park." His efforts were particularly crucial in 1894 in getting Congress to pass laws giving legal teeth to regulations against poaching and vandalism in Yellowstone. The bill saved America's last wild herd of buffalo from extinction.

Among his many contributions to the cause of conservation, Grinnell founded the Audubon Society; partnered with Theodore Roosevelt to establish the Boone and Crockett Club; and helped organize the New York Zoological Society. As a mentor to the younger Roosevelt, his influence was even broader.

In later life, Grinnell became well known as an ethnographer of Plains Indian tribes, but he never stopped supporting national parks. He was the driving force behind creation of Glacier National Park in 1910.

Lancelot Jones, 1974 Add To Scrapbook

Lancelot Jones, 1974

Lancelot Jones (1898–1997)

Episode(s): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Associated Park(s): Biscayne

Born in a boat in Biscayne Bay to a former slave father and a Bahamian mother, Lancelot Jones eventually inherited the tiny island known as Porgy Key, near the southern end of the bay. Jones' father, Israel Lafayette Jones, named his two sons King Arthur Jones and Sir Lancelot Jones in the hope, Lancelot said later, "that by giving us great names we would become great men."

The only private resident of Porgy Key, Jones became a fishing guide to millionaires and dignitaries vacationing in Miami Beach. However, when developers offered to purchase Porgy Key to transform it and the other undeveloped islands into a resort area in the 1960s, Jones refused to sell.

In 1968, the islands were protected from development by the creation of Biscayne National Monument, which later became a national park. Jones sold his 277 acres to the National Parks Service on the condition that he have a life tenancy on the land he loved. Jones remained on Porgy Key until 1992, when Hurricane Andrew forced him to evacuate.

Virginia McClurg of Mesa Verde National Park Add To Scrapbook

Virginia McClurg of Mesa Verde National Park

Virginia McClurg (1850–1931)

Episode(s): 2
Associated Park(s): Mesa Verde

McClurg was a reporter for the New York Daily Graphic who was sent to write about the archeological finds of Mesa Verde in the 1880s. She soon started a campaign to preserve the ancient cliff dwellings, lobbying Colorado Senator Edward Wolcott to introduce a bill declaring Mesa Verde a national park. The bill failed, as did numerous other attempts.

McClurg organized women's groups in Colorado and nationally in support of the effort, working tirelessly for the cause. But she later became an opponent of federal control, preferring that Mesa Verde become a state park run by her group. Many of her organization's members, including Lucy Peabody, disagreed and kept pushing for federal control. On June 29, 1906, President Roosevelt signed a bill creating Mesa Verde National Park.

McClurg, who had wanted it to be "a woman's park," never recovered from the setback. She tried unsuccessfully to get her husband appointed as the park's first superintendent. Her support of a tourist attraction that was a faked re-creation of the cliff dwellings precipitated even more resignations from her organization.

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Enos Mills, Muir's Death and Rocky Mountain National Park (02:06)

Enos Mills (1870–1922)

Episode(s): 3

Born in Kansas, Mills was a sickly child and not expected to live through his teenage years. A doctor recommended he move to Colorado for its dry air. At age 14, Mills made his way to Kansas City on his own and worked in a bakery to earn enough money for the train ticket west. He ended up in Estes, Colorado, in the heart of the Rockies, where his health was restored.

He eventually became Colorado's official "snow observer," traipsing alone in the mountains to measure the snow pack. He became an expert outdoorsman; by the time he was 35, Mills had camped in every state and territory of the United States.

In 1901, he bought a ranch and renamed it the Longs Peak Inn, where he offered guided nature hikes and gave speeches in front of the lobby's fireplace. An admirer of and correspondent with John Muir, Mills followed his hero's career path as a nature writer for popular magazines and eventually published more than 18 books.

He was the principal leader of the effort to preserve the Longs Peak region under federal protection and is often referred to as "the father of Rocky Mountain National Park."

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

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View with fog in valley and peaks lighted by sunset, winter; Yosemite National Park

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Untold Stories

Untold Stories

Discover the "hidden" stories of the national parks that explore the role of minorities in the creation and protection of the parks.

National Park Service rangers

Visit America's Best Idea

You own 391 national parks. Come for a visit and take away the experience of a lifetime. Help the National Park Service make America's Best Idea even better!

Bank of America Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr Fund Corporation for Public Broadcasting The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Park Foundation

National Park Foundation The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation The Pew Charitable TrustsGM


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