What could be more democratic than owning together the most magnificent places on your continent? Think about Europe. In Europe the most magnificent places -the palaces, the parks – are owned by aristocrats, by monarchs, by the wealthy. In America, magnificence is a common treasure. That’s the essence of democracy.
Carl Pope, Sierra Club, in the PBS documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns, 2009
To celebrate our “common treasure” (our national parks), the U.S. National Park Service sponsors a National Park Week every year, with free admission to all National Parks in the country. Last week, April 16th-24th, was this year’s sponsored week and we participated by heading to St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, otherwise known as the old Spanish fort in historic, downtown St. Augustine.
The Castillo de San Marcos is “the oldest masonry fort and the best preserved example of a Spanish colonial fortification in the continental United States.” It sits on the edge of the historic district, right on the water. It may not be the Grand Canyon, but it is history and it is beautiful.
The courtyard allows access to rooms within the fort, including the guard quarters and a confinement room for those who required a little discipline. Other rooms contain historical information boards.
And no fort is complete without cannons….
There are 394 National Park sites in the United States and Florida contains 10 of them. They are:
- Fort Caroline National Memorial
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
- Fort Matanzas National Monument
- Canaveral National Seashore
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Biscayne National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- DeSoto National Memorial
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
I’m not sure I would call the establishment of the National Park System America’s Best Idea, but it does come close.