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Posted: 8/26/2009


On Saturday, August 29, 2009, Arizona Public Media, the Udall Foundation, Friends of Saguaro National Park, the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Western National Parks Association will be hosting the National Parks Family Expo. It is free and open to the public and there will be activities and interactive displays encouraging people to visit and enjoy the U.S. national parks. The Expo runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus.

As part of this event, Parks in Focus short digital stories will be shown in the lobby of Centennial Hall during the Expo on August 29, 2009, in conjunction with the screening of the new Ken Burns PBS documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Under a new partnership, Grand Canyon National Park and the Udall Foundation applied for and were awarded a grant through the 2009 America's Best Idea Program. The America’s Best Idea Program was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and is closely tied to the documentary.

As a part of the collaboration, in June, two groups of 12 seventh graders from the Boys & Girls Club of Tucson went on five-day Parks in Focus trips through northern Arizona. The grant allowed 10 youth from the June Arizona trips to return to the Grand Canyon for one week in August to camp in the backcountry and learn about the natural and cultural resources of the park. They honed their photography skills with help from renowned photographer Gary Ladd and took in the sights and sounds of the canyon as they were led by park rangers and Udall scholarship alumni. With the assistance of Arizona Public Media, the kids put together short digital stories using their photographs to document their Grand Canyon experience.

Since 1999, Parks in Focus, a program of the Udall Foundation, has been connecting underserved youth to nature through the art of photography. With the help of trained Udall scholarship alumni leaders, the Udall Foundation organizes week-long trips to introduce members of local Boys & Girls Clubs, many of whom have never before left their communities, to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country. The Foundation provides digital cameras to the young participants to use and keep and teaches the basics of photography, ecology, and conservation while exploring national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands.

The Ken Burns documentary screening takes place indoors at Centennial Hall from 4-5 p.m. and is scheduled to include a videotaped introduction from director Burns as well as highlights from the film. The documentary will premier on public television this fall and is a coproduction of PBS/WETA and Florentine Films.

Immediately following the special screening is the panel discussion, Community Conversation: The State of the National Parks, moderated by Arizona Illustrated Host Bill Buckmaster and emceed by Ellen Wheeler, executive director of the Udall Foundation. Confirmed for the panel are Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Congressman Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands for the House Committee on Natural Resources; and Darla Sidles, superintendent of Saguaro National Park.

For additional information about Parks in Focus, please contact Melissa Millage at 520.901.8562 or

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