Book Reviews

Bonnye Reed Fry (Reviewer)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Full Text:

Dr. Gil Lusk spent 35 years working his way through the levels of responsibility required to protect, maintain, and allow access to our National Parks. He is familiar with the problems of funding, which has been a continual hot spot in the Parks service, the education of both park workers and the public, and the contrary aspects of public access and public damage to these national treasures.

The number of our parks grows with every president. Reagan added 18 NPS units, HW 14, Clinton 19, W 7 and Obama 18. The budget didn’t necessarily follow suit. The mission statements of the parks service have also changed over the years, with both the drastic increase in the number of parks and the number of visitors, added to the growing ease of travel and increased personal leisure time have made our park systems very much more in demand. That demand puts these treasured sites into even more danger as we in great numbers observe and enjoy our parks. 

Dr. Lusk explains to us the forming and growth of the Mission 66 initiative, established to answer these still current problems in the parks as they grew from the end of WWII. During the 1940s and early 1950s, there was a great deal of criticism from the public concerning the deterioration of the National Park Systems answered by the formation of Mission 66, a national initiative providing ten years of funding to restore the damage to our national parks. 

There are currently two mission statements being addressed: The Organic Act of 1916, and one from the year 2000. Both are critical to the health of our parks. The 1916 mission statement is close to the heart of Dr. Lusk and mentioned often in this work.

As he traveled through the park service, beginning as a student trainee in the summer college break of 1962 at St. Augustine, Florida, the San Marcos National Monument, and through his retirement from Superintendent of the Albright Training Center working out of Washington, DC in 1997, we visit and see through knowing eyes many of the parks in the system, their joys, their woes, their worth. We also see the many, many hours over and above the ’40 hour week’ that our National Park personnel put in, with little or no compensation, to maintain our parks and keep Americans aware of what the park system offers. And we see, clearly, that preserving this history and access to these sites has to be the work of everyone. Only if we approach the preservation of our heritage as a nationally accepted personal mission will we be able to find the safety and availability of our historic treasures that we all seek.

Dr. Lusk writes in a clear, straight-forward manner that identifies for us the root of the needs of our parks. The last part of this book consists of essays written by him over the years that really opened my eyes. For his service to the nation through the parks system, Dr. Lusk was awarded the two highest performance recognition awards from the US Department of Interior. He was honored with the Meritorious Service Award for his work at Big Bend and Valley Forge in 1986, and Distinguished Service Award for leadership and achievements from Valley Forge to Glacier, presented by Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and President, Bill Clinton. Dr. Lusk was also honored with the presentation of an Honorary Ph.D. for Public Service over four decades by his alma mater, Gettysburg College.

As a park lover and visitor for the last 70 years, I want for our children and theirs the joy, beauty, and tranquility of our natural parks, and the knowledge and progress shared by our living history parks and monuments. It is obvious that the preservation of this inheritance will have to be made by personal commitment and sacrifice. I am a willing member of Dr. Lusk’s army. 

I received a free electronic copy of this work from Netgalley, Dr. Gil Lusk, and Gatekeeper Press. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read National Parks Our Living National Treasures: A Time for Concern of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.