Looking for some outdoor summer fun but hate the crowds of Yellowstone, the remoteness of Dry Tortugas, the heat of Death Valley, and the obviousness of the Grand Canyon? Maybe you’d instead enjoy picnicking in James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park in Georgia. Or swimming at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Kentucky. Or walking your leashed pet through Harry “Babe” Woodyard State Natural Area in Illinois.

 

If so, you should get on that now. This is not a good time for state parks. With economic conditions making employment and education seem like privileges, recreation is hardly thought a right. Which is why the state parks make easy targets for the nation’s 50 governors and 7,382 state legislators looking to cut costs. Which is why the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in turn, has placed state parks and… More…

 

 

To enter the National Museum of Natural History’s new Sant Ocean Hall, you must first pass the institution’s iconic African elephant. Here the taxidermied remains of an actual elephant — shot dead in the wild and given to the institution by a big-game hunter in 1954 — stand guard over the knowledge contained within.

But are the elephant’s days as a sentinel of natural science numbered? Behind it, in Ocean Hall, a large artificial whale floats above the 23,000 square feet of exhibition space devoted to the world’s seas. Phoenix — the Hall’s “ambassador,” as the museum repeatedly refers to it — is a full-size foam-and-mâché replica of an actual North Atlantic right whale. Whereas the rotunda’s anonymous bull elephant last raised his trunk over the African savanna more than half a century ago, the real Phoenix… More…