Growing up in Jamaica as an only child, Audrey Peterman roamed fearlessly, taking in the beauty of the island that many dream to visit, not to mention, call home. After arriving in the US, marrying, and raising six children, Peterman’s love for the outdoors grew, pushing her to start sightseeing in national parks. To her dismay, she observed very few minorities managing and visiting these parks. After the college graduation of their last child, Peterman and her husband Frank, packed up their life to “discover America,” embarking on a cross-country road trip, vowing to visit as many national parks as they possibly could in two months. They knew they needed to do: advocate and encourage minorities, specifically African Americans, the most underrepresented race in national parks, to get up from the safety of their air-conditioned homes and into the great outdoors. Since 1995, the Petermans have visited more than 178 of the 408 national parks, traversed 40+ states, written books, and are founders of Earthwise Productions Inc. Advocacy never sleeps, so check out the Peterman family’ top 8 parks to visit this summer 2016!
- Arizona- The Grand Canyon
“This is one of my favorite parks to visit,” said Peterman. “When President Roosevelt encountered its beauty, he said, ‘Let this great wonder of nature remain how it is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is improve on it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.’” The park was opened as a National Monument in 1908 under President Theodore Roosevelt, and was upgraded to National Park status in 1919 under President Woodrow Wilson. She suggests that for people who are newcomers to national parks, the Grand Canyon would be the best part to start.
- California- Rosie the Riveter WWII Park
Located in Richmond, Peterman says, “PLEASE go to visit Rosie the Riveter WW II Park and make sure to catch Ranger Bettie Reid Soskin!” Soskin, 95, is African American and is the oldest working park ranger in National Park System. She has done great work in promoting the park and serving as an inspiration to many around her due to her lively spirit and dedication. She has even touched the heart of President Obama, who invited her to the White House to light the 2015 National Christmas Tree! In addition to catching up with Soskin, visitors should also take the time to explore the expansive visitor center for an incredible educational experience from the rangers stationed inside.
- Illinois-Pullman National Monument
This treasure is located in Chicago’s Far South Side and was built in 1880 by George Pullman, an industrial worker and the manufacturer of the railroad sleeper car. This community, entirely known as The Pullman National Landmark District, is the nation’s first planned industrial town and was built as accommodation for his factory workers and their families. The Pullman District is new to the National Park System and was declared a national monument on February 15, 2015 by President Obama.
- Maine-Acadia National Park
“I heartily recommend this park!” exclaims Peterman. “This is the first national park that I ever visited, and has had me visiting all the others for the past 21 years.” If you love lobster in the summer, this will be heaven for you!
- Michigan- Sleeping Bear Dunes
Voted by thousands of Good Morning America viewers as the “America’s Most Beautiful Place” five years ago, Sleeping Bear Dunes is named for its large sand dunes, which according to Ojibwa Indian legend, were created after two cubs drowned, attempting to swim with their mother across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin. The dunes are the bears as they died and were buried face down. The Sleeping Bear Dunes allows visitors to view 65 miles of the Michigan shoreline, as well as many other beautiful streams and lakes.
- New York- African Burial Ground
In 1991, the mandatory excavation of land for the erection of a 34-story Federal building in Lower Manhattan, turned into the discovery of one of New York’s most exciting historical discoveries. More than 20 feet below the surface of the 6.6 acre plot, crews found the skeletal remains of 400 African men, women, and children. Howard University anthropologists who surveyed the land determined that the remains were those of free and enslaved Africans from the late 1600s to 1794. It was the only place the African dead could be buried, due to British restrictions. More than 20,000 people were buried on the land. It was declared a national landmark in 1993,
- South Dakota- Badlands National Park
Despite deriving its name from the Lakota people who judged the land to be terrible to travel through because of the high temperatures, scarce water supply, and tough terrain, Peterman describes the Badlands as “absolutely one of the most breathtaking parks in the system.” According to the NPS website, the 244,000 acre park is the result of geological forces that led to deposition and erosion dating back 69 million years ago. This is evident as there are varying types of beautiful rock structures throughout the area. A geologist’s dream vacation!
- Tennessee- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains are a great option for anyone who lives in North Carolina or Tennessee as these mountains are the border between the two states almost equally. Seeing over 10,712, 674 visitors in 2015 according to National Park reports, and having 800 miles of trail, 10 campgrounds, and more than 1,500 plant species alone, it is the most visited park in the National Park System. Fun Fact: It is driving distance to 2/3 of the U.S population…No excuse to not hop in the car and go now!
“To be healthy overall, it is important that we have a healthy relationship with nature. Through my work, that is what I am trying to pass on to my own race,” said Peterman.
To read more learn more about the Petermans’, visit www.legacyontheland.com.
Featured Image Credit: Hiking With The Naturalistas
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