John Sears analyzes how Americans developed an image of their own land, creating a distinctly American culture through tourism during the nineteenth century. In Sacred Spaces American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century, he examines how writers, artists, publishers, and business men shaped a national culture through their promotions of places like Niagara Falls, Mammoth Cave, and Yosemite. Since America was a new nation Americans had no grand cathedrals or tombs of saints to play into their national identity. So Americans set out to find sacred spaces, natural wonders where tourist could have a religious experience viewing the grandness of the scenery while also acting as consumers.
Ideas of natural wonders and sacred spaces can apply today at the Rocky Mountain National Park, located outside of Estes Park, Colorado. Part of the land that is now included in the park was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Enos Mills, a local lodge owner recognized the beauty of the area and began lobbying for it to become a national park in 1909. His dream was realized when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act into law in January of 1915, making it the tenth national park in the United States. As the number of visitors increased, rangers and the Civilian Conservation Corps began building roads, trails, and museums to accommodate visitors.
Two of the main uses of parks are usually recreational or leisure. The Rocky Mountain National Park includes both. Driving through the park one can enjoy the beauty of nature through the scenery, taking in the various landmarks and points of interest in the park. Visitors can take scenic drives along Trail Ridge Road, which cross the Continental Divide, or look for elk in the Kawuneeche Valley. If visitors want to experience nature through recreational activities then they can hike one of the many trails located within the park. I hiked the trail to Alberta Falls and then back across to Bear Lake. The trails were well maintained and easy to walk. The scenery was wonderful.
Hiking and being outside in the Rocky Mountains does make one proud to be an American. Viewing Alberta Falls, does make one believe in a higher power and feel in awe that the mountains have been there for so many years. The park itself is not an area of consumerism like Garden of the God’s. The park is protected from building and development, so the only buildings are ones thought necessary by the Park’s Service. It is important that the park remains free from commercialization to be able to preserve the natural wonder and beauty of the park. You do have to pay to enter the park, yet I feel that the payment is not a commodification of the park, rather a way to raise money to support the upkeep and preservation of the park. If people have to pay to see something they will be more likely to take care of what they are viewing and actually take time to explore the whole area, not just a little part of it. The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the places that makes America America, so it deserves preservation.