» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

Get Local Alerts on Your Mobile Device

Text "LOCAL" to 98999 to get breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.

Humble Md. Park Typifies Shift From Scenic to Cerebral

National System 'Uniquely American,' Unevenly Attended

Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Welcome to America's 344th-best idea.

This Story

It sits in the woods of Charles County, a monument to a man who -- besides signing the Declaration of Independence -- didn't do much to deserve one. In a time of revolution, he was a moderate. In an era of national heroes, he played a modest part as a Maryland state senator. Then he died, and his house was gutted by a fire.

Somehow, though, Thomas Stone still got a national park. But not a very popular one.

The Thomas Stone National Historic Site ranked 344th last year among 360 sites where the National Park Service tracks attendance. On Saturday, the park will be the backdrop for a preview of filmmaker Ken Burns's new miniseries, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."

Rangers at the lonely visitors center here hope the film will draw people and help them make their case that the Thomas Stone site is not a mistake but actually an example of the park system's next big idea.

If anybody believes it, there will be lots of available parking.

"We're here," said Scott Hill, the site's supervisory park ranger. "And [we] want to see people."

Burns's six-part series premieres Sunday on public broadcasting stations. In it, Burns focuses heavily on "The Big 58," the scenery-rich icons such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Hawaii Volcanoes that carry the formal title "National Park."

On Saturday, the Thomas Stone site will show a 45-minute preview of the Burns series at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and offer tours of the home and grounds. The film will also be shown on the Ellipse in downtown Washington during a celebration of National Public Lands Day.

The point of Burns's narrative is that the concept of a protected slice of nature -- open not only to the wealthy or to royalty but to everybody -- was an American invention.

The parks were "an idea . . . as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence, and just as radical," the film's narrator says.

In 12 hours of film, the Thomas Stone National Historic Site isn't mentioned once.

CONTINUED     1        >

» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

More in the Metro Section

Local Blog Directory

Find a Local Blog

Plug into the region's blogs, by location or area of interest.

Virginia Politics

Blog: Va. Politics

Here's a place to help you keep up with Virginia's overcaffeinated political culture.

D.C. Taxi Fares

D.C. Taxi Fares

Compare estimated zoned and metered D.C. taxi fares with this interactive calculator.

Facebook Twitter RSS
© 2009 The Washington Post Company