As we approach the second anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, I am happy to report that one beneficiary of this groundbreaking legislation is the George Washington Memorial Parkway. My family drives often drives along the Parkway, and we have many favorite sites. We watch planes take off and land from Gravelly Point and enjoy the views from the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac River.

Last week, a trip along the Parkway with some friends offered us a fantastic afternoon at one of my favorite, local national parks. Though I’ve been there many times, I was still amazed at the excitement and questions such a short outing prompted in the children.

When I told them we were headed to an island for the afternoon, they were confused, thinking of sunny beaches and tropical destinations. Unfortunately, these places aren’t a great fit for an afternoon excursion. But Theodore Roosevelt Island, situated in the middle of the Potomac River, is an easy drive from our home.

When we first crossed the bridge, the kids were grumpy about “just another walk in the woods.” That quickly turned to shock at the gauntlet of poison ivy we had to traverse. After a harrowing few minutes, they were amazed at the boardwalk that ran through the marsh and astounded that the environment on one, tiny island could change so quickly.

That short walk through the marsh offered our best wildlife sightings of the afternoon. We encountered a fawn that startled us with how close it was willing to approach. The youngest kids were ecstatic to see the blue tails A fawn standing in underbrush.of five-lined skinks and were able to spot more than a dozen along the trail. After this exploration, we all enjoyed a spectacular view of the Kennedy Center and Georgetown waterfront, complete with a heron resting in the Potomac River.

We ended our island exploration at the actual monument. The preteen girls were unimpressed with President Roosevelt’s quotes on manhood, but it prompted a discussion on how the role and perception of women in society has changed over the last hundred years. While we were disappointed the fountains were not working, the tadpole spotting added to our wildlife adventures.. The kids were amazed at the overall structure on the island and wondered how everything got there. It’s a question we have added to our investigative to-do list, along with a request to come back and see how different the island will be in the fall.

A quick afternoon getaway in our local national park stimulated such amazing experiences and conversations on history, culture, engineering, and biology.

We are grateful to have so many national parks nearby. And today, I’m also thankful for the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, and the funding it provides for improvements to infrastructure at parks across the country that will increase opportunities for many more people to experience the wonders of nature and the stories from history that are protected by our country’s incredible national parks.

Contributed by Theresa M., staff assistant.