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Date: July 29, 2009
Contact: Aaron Ochoa, 360-816-6233
Contact: Greg Shine
Contact: Visitor center, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 360-816-6230

VANCOUVER, WA In response to all-time high temperatures in the Portland/Vancouver metro area, today Superintendent Tracy Fortmann announced that through the weekend the park will be offering a special free indoor activity in the park's air-conditioned Visitor Center Theater: the showing of a 45-minute "sneak peek" of acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns' and Florentine Films’ new series THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA.

The preview, introduced by one of the site's rangers, will be shown at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily at the air-conditioned Visitor Center Theater from Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2, 2009. The theater capacity is 40 people and the event is first come, first served.

The six-episode, twelve-hour series THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA is directed by Burns and produced with his long-time colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the screenplay. It is scheduled to air this fall.

At its heart, the film is the story of an idea, as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical – that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns' exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska – the documentary is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story full of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration – set against the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable.

The narrative traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews, and what Burns believes is the most stunning cinematography in Florentine Films' history, the film chronicles the steady addition of new parks through the stories of the people who helped create them and save them from destruction. It is simultaneously a biography of compelling characters and a biography of the American landscape.

Like the idea of freedom itself, the national park idea has been constantly tested, constantly evolving, and inherently full of contradictory tensions: between individual rights and the community, the local and the national; between preservation and exploitation, the sacred and the profitable; between one generation's immediate desires and the next generation's legacy.

It has been called "America’s best idea," and no activity of the federal government engenders such universal support and public loyalty, yet the story of how these special places became preserved as parks, the role of individual citizens in creating them, and the powerful stories of people's emotional connection to them remains relatively unknown.

THE NATIONAL PARKS will include extensive outreach, educational and on-line components to create a national discussion about public land and preservation as the country prepares to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.

Peter Coyote provides the narration. Other voices are provided by Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia, Sam Waterston, Amy Madigan, Eli Wallach , Carolyn McCormick and many others. The film includes as well more contemporary footage than any Burns film since the 1997 LEWIS & CLARK. Buddy Squires, the chief cinematographer on all of Burns's films – as well as Burns himself and long-time Florentine cameraman Allen Moore -- shot more than 800 rolls of original footage in 53 parks, producing some of the most extraordinary natural photography ever captured of the national parks system.

WHAT: A 45-minute preview of Ken Burns’s and Florentine Films’ new series THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily from Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2, 2009

WHERE: Visitor Center Theater, Fort Vancouver NHS, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA (360) 816-6230

WHO: The first 40 visitors. The theater capacity is 40 people and the event is first come, first served.

HOW MUCH: There is no cost to see the film, and entrance to the Visitor Center is free. Entrance fees apply to the adjacent reconstructed fort and Pearson Air Museum

For additional information about this and other special events offered by the National Park Service at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, please visit our website or call the Visitor Center at 360. 816.6230.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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