Dennis Drabelle discusses his new book, The Power of Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Origin of National Parks, with Shaun Eyring Manager, Cultural Resources Division National Park Service.

About the Book:

Wallace Stegner called national parks “the best idea we ever had.” As Americans celebrate the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, a question naturally arises: where did the idea for a national park originate? The answer starts with a look at pre-Yellowstone America. With nothing to put up against Europe’s cultural pearls—its cathedrals, castles, and museums—Americans came to realize that their plentitude of natural wonders might compensate for the dearth of manmade attractions. That insight guided the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted as he organized his thoughts on how to manage the wilderness park centered on Yosemite Valley, a state-owned predecessor to the national park model of Yellowstone. Haunting those thoughts were the cluttered and carnival-like banks of Niagara Falls, which served as an oft-cited example of what should not happen to a spectacular natural phenomenon.

Dennis Drabelle is a writer and former lawyer with the U.S. Department of the Interior. His previous books include Mile-High Fever, a history of the Comstock Lode silver rush, and The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took on the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad. Drabelle lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Shaun Eyring is the Manager, Cultural Resources Division for the National Park Service, Interior Region 1. In this role, she oversees six diverse programs that provide cultural resource stewardship, technical support, and guidance for national parks and partners. She received a Master of Landscape Architecture and Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia. Shaun began her Philadelphia career as a landscape architect at Hanna/Olin before joining the National Park Service to develop and implement a region-wide cultural landscape preservation strategy. She has managed several resource stewardship programs during her National Park Service career and served in a national capacity as co-coordinator of Designing the Parks, an initiative that promoted innovation, education and partnerships in creating healthy, vibrant, well-designed public space. Shaun is co-editor of Public Nature with Ethan Carr and Richard Guy Wilson and Recreating the American Past with Richard Guy Wilson and Kenny Marotta.