Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Notes From the Field

By Jessica DeWitt

Originally published for the University of Kentucky Political Ecology Group

Outsider. Insider. My academic journey thus far often seems like a tightrope act between these two desires. My background and passion for state parks and nature has led me to become an environmental historian who focuses on parks. My dissertation is a comparative history of the development and management of state and provincial parks in the United States and Canada. I grew up “one mile up the hill, South on Route 36” from Cook Forest State Park in Western Pennsylvania. My parents owned rental cabins for over twenty years. Our cabins were authentic relics of an earlier era, built by hand from trees felled on the property in the 1920s. Rejecting the common path their middle-class backgrounds had paved for them, my parents took the cabins over after years of neglect in the early 1980s. My childhood was admittedly idyllic and largely spent meandering through the woods, alone with just myself, my dogs, and my nature. Even as a youngster I understood the deep divide that stood between my family and our renters; our tight knit community of small business owners and the droves of tourists; the insiders and outsiders. Continue reading

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