Imagine that you could step back through time to the year 1872. The United States has recently been torn apart by civil war. Towns have been ruined, the countryside trampled, and many people have lost friends or family members. The President is the most famous general of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant. This is a country with serious problems, a country struggling to rebuild itself and somehow restore the spirit of its divided people. This is a country that has turned tired eyes toward the west and, amidst its troubles and concerns, given birth to a wonderful concept-the creation of the world's first national park.
The thought of having national parks is so familiar to us, that sometimes it's hard to realize that at one time this idea was fresh and different. Who came up with the idea in the first place and how did it happen? The United States was far from the first country to set aside special places-in fact there had been preserves in Asia and Europe for thousands of years. "Commons", for instance, existed for public use. These were less appealing, even "waste" lands, set aside for common needs such as livestock grazing and the gathering of fuel and building materials. Other more desirable areas, like game preserves, were privileged and private places and not for use by everyone.