As the first rays of reflected emerald light from San Salvador reached the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, an immense range of possibilities for this new world must have flashed through the minds of Christopher Columbus and his crew. Columbus and those who trailed in his footsteps may have missed things deeper and inherently more valuable than what they noticed.
Among the more valuable things overlooked by Columbus and his crew were connections with local landscapes and communities. Americans are growing from this oversight and building upon the legacy of Columbus. One important step in this direction was the creation of national parks. Often called the “America’s best idea,” national parks preserve the wildlife, scenery, history and natural and cultural resources that make this country what it is.
In national parks the wealth of this nation is preserved for future generations. These riches exist in the towering redwood forests with ocean breezes and mists rushing through them, mountain meadows filled with brightly colored wildflowers, battlefields where soldiers laid down their lives so that this nation might live, and where a rare combination of coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and undeveloped subtropical islands exists as Biscayne National Park. Our national parks bind us together and provide sustenance for mind, body and spirit.
To protect park resources as well as the safety and well-being of visitors, the park is partnering with other agencies during the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, October 10-13. Such collaborations are improving safety for park visitors. Fewer boats are involved in accidents or groundings as law enforcement entities increase their presence in the park. Special regulations are in force during Columbus Day weekend that provide access for emergency services and keep boats from being grouped together in hazardous and impenetrable masses.
Ultimately, however, America’s best idea is in your hands. Please enjoy Biscayne National Park safely and responsibly. Columbus Day weekend is the most dangerous time of year for those attempting to use park waterways, both for boating and swimming, as injuries and deaths occur during this time. Twenty year old Monica Burguera and twenty three year old Osmany “Ozzie” Castellanos are among the casualties of park boating accidents in recent years.
National parks provide beautiful sunsets, enchanting encounters with wildlife, and responsible recreation opportunities. National parks project the best face of the nation to the world and enrich everyone. They help bring us together as a nation. The parks offer such benefits in addition to being economic engines for surrounding communities. The American legacy, in this way, is one of beauty as well as utility. Such a legacy helps us grow beyond the initial one provided by Columbus.
Matt Johnson is the Public Information Officer for Biscayne National Park. Photos courtesy National Park Service.