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A few weeks ago a good friend of ours sent us information about an event the Earth Day Texas Organization was holding on Thursday, August 18, 2016. They were showing a video in conjunction with the National Parks Service in Texas, SMU, and TEDtalks. The name of the video show was “The National Parks of Texas: In Contact With Beauty.” This was a PBS video shown on the PBS station in 2015, but we were just now seeing it. It is a mystery how or why we had never heard of this video. Maybe we have been so hung up on Texas State Parks only, we had not tuned our brains in to hear it.

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We knew about a couple of the National Parks Service sites here in Texas.  In June we visited Fort Davis National Historic Site and even discussed driving to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but the one that surprised us the most was Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco. We had visited Mayborn Museum once and saw the mammoth dig but never knew it had become a National Monument in 2015.  I wanted to see if there had been type of “announcement” on YouTube concerning the dedication of the monument and came across the actual video of President Obama signing the paperwork making it official.

Having been at the museum site many years before it had become a National Monument, we assumed we were going to be visiting the museum again. However, as we followed the gps app, we found we were headed in the complete opposite direction of where we had planned to visit. So this was going to be an adventurous day for sure. As we came to the location we needed to turn, we saw the huge sign that told us were had arrived.

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As you know, Scott and I had to get out and do the huge photo production or else we didn’t feel it would count towards the project. So he took out the tripod to do the photo right, no more selfie photos for us, unless it is just to post on instagram or otherwise. We decided if it worth doing, it is worth doing right. Therefore we had to set up the tripod, take a sign photo, us in the next photo and then there is the silly photo that goes along with it. It definitely make the opening of our videos interesting.

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We then headed up to the office to get registered and stamp the passport. I think I am more excited about that than the photos. There is something so satisfying to here the click click of the stamp as you push down on the handle. Then to see the cancellation knowing it is because you made it to yet another National site. I really wish we would have had the passport when we visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Yosemite in January. I guess we will have to go back and stamp both of those twice. Shoot, what a hardship that will be. Can’t you see it pains me? Haha.

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While I have thought about doing a video on the National Parks Service Passport, I haven’t even tried to do one yet when there are quite a few really good ones out there already.  If you are curious about the passport and the cancellation process, please watch this video made by MMC/TRODAT USA (they make the stamps and passports):

We met Raegan King, the director of the Monument, and were shown where the tour was getting ready to take place. Our guide was Gena Stuchbery and she was fantastic. I am sure all of the tour guides are, but in my opinion our Gena was wonderful. She was one cool lady when it came to the Q&A and she knew what the facts were about the bones, dig site, building, and history. I actually learned so much information on Saturday that I am still amazing myself and friends with all of it.  I loved that the creators of this site thought about the way information would be given to the public. We walked a ways from the headquarters to find this semi-circle of stones which were perfect for sitting through the Ice Age portion of Gena’s presentation.

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I think my favorite thing about the whole location is that they have taken the time to build something that will encourage future generations to look for answers through science. I know everytime I see a fossil, I get excited because it reminds me that it, the past, really did happen. The dinosaurs roamed the earth, the sea covered this great state of Texas giving us the limestone to walk upon, and the volcanos helped to make the beautiful landscape we see all around us. If it were not for places like our National Parks, Historical Sites, and Monuments, we would possibly not see and be able to learn how precious and special this world is. I know it makes me appreciate my life and the world around me much more.

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The tour leads you through a gated area to the actual location of the original dig sites.  This was the location where, in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin found a femur bone that was definitely not your average femur bone of cattle or humans.  In 1996 the owner of the land donated it to the City of Waco to build the dig shelter.  This building is kept under lock and key because of the bones not being fossilized and can be damaged if the conditions are just wrong for them. I won’t spill all the secrets here, but thanks to Canada for figuring out how to protect these bones giving the site creators a way to preserve and present in such a unique way.  It is also a live digging site so the bones are precious and must be protected from scavengers.

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Upon entering the site, I found myself in awe of the light and openness of the area.  It was huge, but of course when you think of what the room is home to, it must be.  I loved seeing how they elevated the floor from the ceiling and protected the bones below.  It is such a unique and thoughtful way of presenting the bones.  This is not just a display though, this is an active dig site and they have interns who come in and work on the bones.

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While we stood around looking at the bones of the mammoths, camel and other creatures, I found myself wondering what my part in all this was. How was it I was going to contribute, share and encourage? One, of course is by the blog and the videos, but another way is to tell all of you about the website page where you can donate and volunteer your time. By donating money, you help keep the facilities up so they can keep their electricity on and continue to protect the bones by controlling the temperature and the humidity within the building where the bones are kept. The money also helps to pay the programs and educational events the location has to encourage learning. If you would like to donate to the National Parks Service, please visit HERE!

If money isn’t something you feel you are called to do, maybe you should look into giving a bit of yourself and volunteering. Many times, the parks, historical sites, and monuments are not allowed to have as many employees as they truly need because funding is not always available. Volunteers can be found doing things like working in a park store, giving tours, or just picking up litter. There is something for everyone. If you would like to volunteer with the National Park Service, please visit HERE!

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The third way you can help your National Parks, Historical Sites, and Monuments is to encourage your friends and family to visit these places. There is so much to learn and the traveling will help them, and yourself grow as a person from the experiences you have as an individual or a family. Not only will traveling to these locations help you to experience new locations, cultures, and people, but it will help you and them see the beauty of our country, world. Seeing this and learning the history will help you to respect and appreciate what is in nature, which, in turn will help you to protect these places for future generations to see, learn, and grow, just as you have.

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I bring this third issue up because recently there have been some things happening in our National and State Parks that has broken my heart. There have been people who have decided they wanted to leave their mark upon these places of beauty and importance by painting their “tags” and “art” upon places like Zion National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and countless other locations. It has happened here in Texas as well at our Enchanted Rock more than once. This causes much work for those who work in the park, causes the park to lose money because certain areas must be closed to the public, and discourages people to not visit these places because the beauty is being destroyed. Remember it is illegal to deface these places and there are fines and jail time for doing so. For more information on this story please go HERE!

Yes, there have been many, many, many years of people scratching their names into rocks, benches, and caves at the places, but that does not make it history or beautiful.  It is still damage, granted it does mean something when you see a name and year from before the location was a place of national importance, but that still does not give anyone the right to do it today.  Instead of destroying these places of beauty to be your “mark on the world” why not pick up some trash someone left behind or stop someone from chopping down that baby redwood?

Please take time to visit, donate, and volunteer at a National Park, Historical Site and/or Monument, it will change your life. Then, encourage others to do the same.  For a full list of the National Park, Historical Sites and Monuments in Texas, please go HERE!

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