HomeLearning CenterSpecial places and the people who manage them are examples of visionary leadership

Special places and the people who manage them are examples of visionary leadership

I am just back from a bucket list family trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. We chose the dates and I booked the ocean-side campsite back in the spring. As gas prices climbed, we thought maybe this wasn’t the best time to pull a camper 2,400 miles and considered canceling the trip. But our son is starting high school, our daughter 7th grade, and I realize we’ll only have them as a captive audience for a few more years, so I researched what everyone MUST see in Acadia, where to go to get away from the crowds, we washed the camper, packed the gear, and cashed out credit card points to offset the cost for gas, lobster rolls, wild blueberry pies, and popovers.

As a family we are collecting destinations in the national parks system. My husband and I each started our collections independently before we met and have instilled an appreciation for experiencing and conserving wild and remote places in our kids. A few years ago, we pulled the same camper 6,000 miles from South Carolina, across the Mississippi River, through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado and back, adding more than a dozen parks and monuments to our family history book.

On these trips, the truck (and bike) wheels are turning and my feet tread countless miles, but my mind is at rest. Getting away, both mentally and physically, from day to day responsibilities and work deadlines makes space for me to remember what is really important in my life and the kind of conscious being I want to be. And the people we encounter along the way remind me that we all have unique experiences, skills, and perspectives to share but whether you’re in Kanab, Utah or Ellsworth, Maine, we also have a lot in common.

My daughter aspires to be a park ranger and I’m grateful that in our travels she and her brother can see first hand, women park rangers regarded with the same respect as their male counterparts, in roles that took sixty-two years, a ruling by the U.S. Attorney General, an act of Congress, and decades of determined protests for them to occupy. Gender pioneers shaped the way our national parks look and operate–Claire Marie Hodges, the first female ranger in Yosemite in 1918, Mary Jane Colter, Grand Canyon architect, Fran Mainella, first female director of the National Park Service, and Lynne Macco, current lighthouse keeper at Bass Harbor Head Light Station, to mention a few.

As summer comes to a close and we return to the daily grind, I’m reflecting on America’s amazingly diverse and magnificent lands. These special places and the people who manage them are a shining example of how visionary leadership with the collective good in mind, paired with cooperation can build and protect something for posterity. We need South Carolina women with that same mindset to step into elected and appointed leadership roles in our government to move our state forward.

Sara Ballard

Back to the Blog