When I was in elementary school, my mom made my favorite cupcakes for my birthday every year to share with the class. They were composed of a fluffy chocolate batter with chocolate frosting, Hershey’s shavings and a gummy worm victoriously placed on top. Now that I’m older, she doesn’t make those cupcakes anymore, but even after 20 years of birthdays, she’s always found a way to make each year special.
Tuesday, Yosemite National Park celebrated its 123rd birthday, and I can assure you that it didn’t get freshly delivered cupcakes from my mother, which led poor Yosemite to light its celebratory candles alone. Instead, the entire park was shut down and large barriers blocked the entrance. Eager visitors were turned away and campers were told that they have 48 hours to leave and figure out other arrangements. Instead of getting up close and personal, campers and hikers were forced to observe this milestone from afar.
The shut down of national parks is an awful side effect of the bigger picture. While the government shutdown is enduring, a vast majority of the federal workers are unable to do their jobs, which means that national park employees that defend these sacred grounds from anthropogenic disturbances as well as maintain the beauty of the area have to put their careers on hold.
If you wanted to visit Yosemite’s official website to say “happy birthday,” then you’re out of luck, because the website has been shut down as well. But not to worry, Yosemite isn’t the only national park that is receiving this special treatment. Badlands, Everglades, the Grand Canyon and every other national park is closed as well.
But at least everyone’s favorite search engine patched together a birthday card for old Yosemite. Nearly every person who Googled something on Tuesday felt sad for a moment as they realized an innocent national park was deprived of its birthday.
I’ve never been to Yosemite, but I can imagine the saddened and disgusted faces of the park rangers that have been planning a birthday event for one of our nation’s finest national parks. The one day out of the year that is dedicated to the beauty, preservation efforts and educational programs of this landmark has been diminished. But surely something positive can come from this. Instead of having one day of recognition, the entirely of the national park services is getting the attention that it deserves.
Yosemite National Park is nestled in the middle of California and is home to a diverse array of organisms. The true beauty of national parks is that people get to sink their teeth into every particle of dirt, rock or water that they encounter. Painting the sweeping landscapes, camping, taking pictures, hiking or simply having a relaxing picnic next to Yosemite Falls — the opportunities are endless.
As cliché as it sounds, you really don’t appreciate something until it’s gone. So why is it so terrible that all of the national parks are closed? Isn’t walking down the street the same thing as walking on a park trail? We don’t need national parks to walk in. We can just go hiking, sightseeing and camping in the comfort of our backyard.
National Parks offer more than trails to us. They are museums of our past. Every day, guided tours traverse through the sequoias, alongside the soaring cliffs, and to North America’s tallest waterfall, Yosemite Falls. Not only can we learn how the national park is preserved on a daily basis, but we can immerse ourselves in a diverse ecosystem and regain our childlike curiosity.
The most prominent feature of the park, El Capitan, stayed intact during glaciation and continues to remain immovable, serving as a symbol of the park’s permanence. Withstanding the tales of time, it is a formidable granite face reaching up to 7,500 feet. With a sheer drop, it’s a destination for thrill-seekers and photographers all around the world. Sculpted by glaciers and fashioned by erosion, the rock record in Yosemite is an ancient storyteller in itself.
Yosemite and all of the national parks will survive the government shutdown, but it puts things into perspective. Without conservation efforts, places like Yosemite surely would’ve been taken over by urban expansion — unappreciated — and our future generations would be unable to enjoy the benefits and serenity of national parks.
So let’s get our birthday candles ready, bake chocolate cupcakes topped with gummy worms, and thank this wonderful national park for functioning without fail, balanced by erosion processes and checked by enthusiastic campers and park employees. Our government could learn a thing or two from Yosemite.
Jennifer Ruth is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying environmental analysis and policy. She can be reached at email@example.com.