“Minnesota’s National Park Legacy”
WHEN: Oct. 6, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Channel TPT2
Minnesota doesn’t have Yellowstone . It doesn’t have the Grand Canyon , the Great Smoky Mountains or the Grand Tetons . But in a new documentary by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT), the impact of Minnesota’s national parks is nonetheless spectacular.
The film, “Minnesota’s National Park Legacy, “ is inspired by the new Ken Burns documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea “ and will premiere on television after the first installment of Burns’ film early next month. Though “Minnesota’s National Park Legacy” lacks the fantastic budget, the immaculate HD pans, the celebrity narration and the accompanying coffee table book, the documentary captures what makes Minnesota’s parks important: the people behind them.
“The idea for filming came from the parks,” explained the film’s writer, director and producer, Steve Spencer. According to Spencer, many states have been making their own documentaries in anticipation of the Burns release.
In the film, each of the national parks, monuments and scenic trails in our fair state are introduced to the audience one by one. For each park, a different story is unfurled not only through the land but through portraits of the people involved in each park.
TPT begun filming the documentary last June and finished earlier this August . The film is centered on interviews with various members of the community explaining their roles in the parks.
“The focus of the film was the stewardship and community involvement,” said Spencer. “There is a reason the first person you hear from in each segment is a member of the community. We really wanted to emphasize community.”
There are many communities around the state that contribute to the national parks. Aside from the staff of professional and volunteer park rangers, who have been called the government’s most popular bureaucrats, the parks also engage local volunteer groups and native communities in many different capacities.
Both Pipestone and Grand Portage are unique in their shared ownership of the land with the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, giving the sites a living cultural history. The Minnesota leg of the North Country Trail, which will run a total of 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York , is being established almost entirely though the work of a volunteer force.
Partnerships have always been a part of what the National Park Service does, according to Paul Labovitz, superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area , whose park relies on groups to help keep the river clean and accessible. “We have to convince people to be responsible and to take care of the river.”
At the film’s premiere last week at the Bell Museum, a few hundred of the people involved in the film were present to view the finished product. Among the crowd, a few ranger hats bobbed, one belonging to Chris Stein, superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway .
“Only Congress can establish national parks,” said Stein just before introducing the film. “Actually, only God can establish them,” he added. And he might be right, but it’s only the ordinary folk that can preserve them.
“Twelve thousand years ago, the Mississippi River flowed here,” said Ranger John Weinburg of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, “and hopefully, in 100,500 or even 1,000 years, somebody will visit and it will look the same.”
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