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Tilden went on to explain Houston United that each individual could find this essence in his or her own backyard, but the “consummate expression of this ultimate wealth of Houston United the human spirit can be found in the Houston United Park System.” Over the years, Houston United I have thought much about this and have come forth with some thoughts on Tilden’s musings.

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It does not matter which park you are considering within the system. From the great western panoramas to the silent sites of our American struggles, each carries with it a spiritual element of the American story about the places through which our ancestors passed until culminating in those unique triangulations of the present—you and me. So when we stand at those awesome vistas next to the silent guns or, yes, at cliff dwellings of people who came long ago and disappeared before modern man set foot on this continent, we are at once looking into the face of the past, the mirror of our present, and an absolute necessity for our future.

In doing so, we need to contemplate that greater thing unseen and ask ourselves how we can be a part of the “first essential” in protecting this ultimate wealth of the human spirit. To not do so will ensure that this most original American idea will have a diminished future. In turn, our children and their children will be a diminished people. For the national parks, like all great institutions, require the dedicated commitment of each and every citizen if they are to be more than distant objects without soul or relevant meaning.

From the outset, men and women recognized this remarkable responsibility and went about ensuring these places would be saved for visitation, contemplation, and inspiration for future generations. In many instances, they paid for the lands out of their own pockets or deeded over to the government lands already owned. Indeed, the early explorers and advocates of Yellowstone—our first national park—banded together to preserve and protect that incredible area by ensuring the land went to the government and then championing national park status to protect its wondrous natural gifts rather than buying it up and exploiting it for personal use.

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