Utah Boy Wins Top Honors in National Park Foundation's Essay Contest

A Utah boy and his family were treated to a visit to Everglades National Park thanks to his winning entry in the National Park Foundation's essay contest. NPS photo of a great blue heron in Everglades.

A Utah boy and his family spent Earth Day at Everglades National Park thanks to his winning entry in the National Park Foundation's 2008 essay contest.

“It’s pretty cool to win a contest that makes people think about the environment and the national parks. It doesn’t matter how young you are, you can always do something to help out – like walking to school instead taking the bus if you live close enough,” said Peter Rosen.

Here's Peter's winning essay:

Saving the environment sounds big, but there are simple steps you can take at home to save the environment and national parks and the best part is they aren’t even hard. One of these things is riding your bike to anywhere that you can. Walking works just as well. Doing this helps because it doesn’t pollute and pollution is bad for the environment.

Another easy way to help the environment is to turn off the lights. As you walk out of a room all you have to do is reach over and press a switch, it’s as easy as that. Another way to save energy by turning off the lights is not using them in the first place. If it’s bright outside why not just open a window and use natural light instead of wasting energy?

Wasting energy hurts the environment in two ways. One, it pollutes because most of our energy comes from fossil fuels, and two, you get those fossil fuels by mining, which doesn’t exactly help the area you’re mining environmentally.

Besides simple things you can do at home there are other things that are just as easy that you can do at the national parks. I live in Utah so the first thing that comes to mind is something I learned at Arches. Stay on the trail. In Arches they have cryptobiotic soil that takes thousands of years to grow. One step off the trail and you just demolished thousands of years of work.

Another thing is to look instead of having to touch. It’s one thing to admire nature’s work and it’s another to examine it with your fingers and ruin nature’s work.

There are some things that you can do at home and at the parks, not littering for example. Take the few steps to the garbage can; don’t just dump it where you are. Recycle, recycle, recycle. This is one of the most effective ways to help the environment. It helps in two ways. The first is that it doesn’t mess up the environment by cutting down trees, etc. The second is that you don’t have to take all the energy to turn trees into paper; you just have to use enough energy to turn paper into paper.

Recycling saves the earth’s environment and it helps us have resources longer. If you’re headed off to a national park it’s best to be educated about it. This way you know things that you should and should not do to help the park. You can then have a fun and environmentally friendly trip.

The environment is important and we, as humans have the ability to save or destroy the wonderful things that surround us. Saving it cannot be just one person’s efforts. It has to be everyone working together, and if we all work together we can turn over a new leaf for the environment and help preserve our national parks.

Along with the trip to Everglades, Peter starred in an Electronic Field Trip hosted by the National Park Foundation. The EFTl examined native and invasive plants in the Everglades, and was broadcast into classrooms across the nation to help kids learn about the native plants in the national parks, as part of the foundation’s First Bloom Program, which is under way in five pilot cities this year. In addition, Peter will receive a $1,000 Macy’s shopping spree and an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass. (Macy's sponsored the essay contest.)

You can read the second- and third-place winners' essays at this site.