“The name of Kent”
Shrouded in fog banks that roll in daily from the Pacific, California redwoods reach hundreds of feet in height and thousands of years in age. They once filled many northern California coastal valleys, but it was one of the last remaining mature stands that William and Elizabeth Kent purchased in 1905. In donating a 300-acre tract north of San Francisco to the Department of the Interior, the Kents asked that President Theodore Roosevelt declare it a national monument, and name it Muir Woods in homage to naturalist John Muir. Acting on their request in 1908, Roosevelt created the first national protected area to be donated by private individuals. But the President suggested the monument should bear the donor family’s name, in recognition of their “generous and public-spirited” act. William Kent demurred, saying he and his wife were raising “five good husky boys” and “if these boys cannot keep the name of Kent alive, I am willing it should be forgotten.”
Luring park progress
The names of brothers Averell and Roland Harriman are synonymous with Wall Street power and White House influence. Averell was “wise man” of the Truman and Kennedy administrations and governor of New York; Roland was an investment banker; and both were sons of railroad titan E. H. Harriman. But they are also synonymous with fly fishing. Why? In 1965, the brothers agreed to donate 11,000 acres to Idaho on the condition that the state create a professional, modern parks agency. Luckily for anglers, the state agreed, and the land—now known as Harriman State Park—sat on Henrys Fork, one of the richest rainbow trout fisheries in the West. In recent years, as Idaho has made deep cuts to its parks budget, a new generation of donors has arisen to preserve Harriman and other parks as beloved recreation sites.
In the early twentieth century, geologist Wallace Pratt pioneered scientific techniques for finding oil deposits, in place of the trial-and-error drilling that had previously dominated the industry. Amid his prospecting, he visited a canyon nestled deep inside the Guadalupe Mountains. In contrast to the high mountains and dry scrub all around, the canyon overflowed with lush, bigtooth maple trees crowding a rushing stream. Pratt thought it the most beautiful spot in Texas, and eventually bought up the land, building a summer retreat for his family, and studying the local geology (it was a fossilized reef). In 1959 Pratt offered his canyon lands to the National Park Service. Several years later the owner of a picturesque sheep ranch that adjoined the canyon did likewise. Out of these gifts, Congress created Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 1972.