It may feel like a footnote in this battle-scarred holiday season, but the 2016 election had at least one point on which Americans could agree.
Across the country, in red, blue and swing states, voters approved more than $6 billion worth of state and local ballot measures to protect open space and park land. Donald Trump precincts in Ohio weren’t so anti-government as to oppose new park funding. Hillary Clinton voters in Los Angeles passed a massive parcel tax to maintain its parks and build new ones.
Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts – if there was one shared value, it was the importance of public land, open to everybody. California communities, including Oakland and San Diego, passed more than a half-dozen parcel taxes, sales taxes and bonds to support parks and open space.
According to the San Francisco-based nonprofit Trust for Public Land, more than 100 parks and open space measures were on the ballot in 2016, more than in any year since the 2008 recession; voters approved 80 percent of them.
That’s worth celebrating, particularly in California, where the day after Thanksgiving is temperate enough in most places for us to #OptOutside, as the annual REI promotion puts it, and seek pastimes besides Black Friday bargains. This year, the Save the Redwoods League has teamed up with the California State Parks Foundation and the state Department of Parks and Recreation to offer first-come, first-serve free passes on Friday to 116 state parks.
The number of passes was vastly expanded this year, but even if they sell out, admission to most state parks is less than $15. And if those don’t suit, it’s the centennial of the National Park Service. And then there’s the spectacular California coastline, which, by state law, is a commonly owned treasure. Or you could just take a stroll in your neighborhood park.
The point is, holiday weekends need not be limited to shopping and avoiding relatives you disagree with. They can also be a valuable opportunity to step out, look up, listen. Breathe.
After all we’ve been through, and all we still face as a nation, it might help to remember that this fragile planet also offers a bigger picture, which we can consider and cherish together, for free.