National Parks are full of treasures

CHAUTAUQUA–If you thoroughly enjoy and treasure the national parks, doesn’t heading up an organization such as the National Parks Conservation Association sound like it could be a fun job?

Meet Theresa Pierno, whose enthusiasm for the parks is obvious and who is president and chief executive officer of the National Parks Conservation Association, or NPCA.

Indeed, Pierno’s enthusiasm for the parks — all of them — is so great that she doesn’t have a favorite.

Speaking on Aug. 10 at the Chautauqua Women’s Club following her morning-amphitheater lecture earlier in the week, Pierno noted that the association is an organization separate from the government.

And yes, the national parks include all of those places that you first think of when you think of national parks: Yellowstone National Park and the like.

But the national parks are more than what you first think of when you think of national parks.

They also include other sites.

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One of those sites is not far from the United Parish Church in Quincy, Mass.

The church has four crypts, one each for the second and fifth presidents and first ladies of the United States: John Adams, Abigail Smith Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams.

The nearby site is the Adams National Historic Park.

According to NPCA, the park became a national park in 1946 to commemorate the distinguished Adamses who dedicated themselves to developing and serving the United States. The 13 acre park has the birthplace of President Adams 2 and President Adams 5; the Old House at Peace Field, the Adamses’ home for four generations; and the Stone Library.

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The birthplace is separate from the Old House at Peace Field and is modest.

The Old House at Peace Field, by contrast, is a large, comfortable home, yet not one with the grandeur of, say, Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson home in Virginia.

Much is remarkable about the Old House at Peace Field.

For one, it has no period pieces. All of the furniture, and even the dishes and stemware, are originals. Yes, originals. They belonged to the Adamses.

The dining-room table is set with the Adamses’ dishes and stemware. If a dish or a glass breaks, it’s not replaced. That leads careful visitors to stand back from the table. Who wants to be the tourist who accidentally broke an irreplaceable dish or glass?

When you walk up the stairs, you pass a dresser that John Adams took with him on an extended overseas diplomatic voyage of which you may have learned by reading David McCullough’s biography of the second president.

It’s one thing to read about it in a book. It’s another thing to walk past it in the Adamses’ four-generation home.

When you walk into the bedrooms, you see them furnished as John and Abigail Adams furnished them.

Your park-ranger tour guides will tell you that Abigail Adams’s bed is where she died.

In another room is a chair, standing in the same place where it stood on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams, you will learn, sat in that chair in that place when he died on that historic anniversary.

He passed from earthly life to eternal life thinking Jefferson, his old rival and later friend, had survived him.

What he didn’t know was that earlier on that same day, Jefferson had predeceased him.

Think of it: The second and third presidents, one of whom signed and the other of whom wrote the Declaration, both died on its 50th anniversary.

It’s that sense of history, along with the history of the entire Adams family, that the Adams National Historic Park embodies.

And this park is just one of hundreds of sites throughout the United States that are under the care of the National Park Service.

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God has blessed America with a beautiful country and many historic sites.

It’s that heritage that the National Parks Conservation Association–consistent with its name–seeks to conserve.

Randy Elf’s favorite national park, so far, is Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming.



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