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Dec 20, 2023

The Legacies We Leave Behind

For many childhood summers, Mark Woods piled into a station wagon with his parents and two sisters and headed to America's national parks. Mark’s most vivid childhood memories are set against a backdrop of mountains, woods, and fireflies in places like Redwood, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks.

On the eve of turning fifty and a little burned out, Mark decided to reconnect with the great outdoors. He'd spend a year visiting the national parks and write a book - thanks to a coveted fellowship from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Mark had initially intended to write a book about the future of the national parks, but Lassoing the Sun grew into something more: a book about family, the parks, and the legacies we inherit and the ones we leave behind. His book, Lassoing the Sun, is about a journey that started with a sunrise in Maine, finished with a sunset in Hawaii and had a life-changing event in the middle: his mother's death.

Mark Woods is the author of Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks. He has been Metro columnist at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville since 2003. Before that, he spent 20 years as a sportswriter at newspapers in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana. He covered the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, political conventions, Olympics, Wimbledon, the Masters, the World Cup and 11 Super Bowls – but he says none of those assignments compare with what he did in 2012, the year that led to Lassoing the Sun.

Each year, the Society of Professional Journalists awards the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship to one writer in America. Mark Woods, who most Jacksonville readers will recognize from his work at the Florida Times-Union, won the fellowship in 2011. His project, built around the National Park Service and celebrating its centennial in 2016, asked the question: What is the future of our parks? The coveted fellowship allowed Woods to devote the following year to his plan — explore one park a month, each symbolizing a different issue for the future, from rising seas to fading night skies.

Interviewer Barbara Goodman is an International Park consultant and co-founder of the Riverfront Parks Conservancy. Barbara retired from the National Park Service in 2015 after 33 years of service; most recently as the Superintendent of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve for 18 years. During this time she provided the leadership and vision for the development of an unprecedented tri-lateral agreement between the National Park Service, Florida Park Service, and the City of Jacksonville Preservation Parks to create a seamless system of parks and to cooperate in planning, promotion, and resource protection.

Barbara provides consultation assistance and guidance to Directors of National Park systems internationally in the areas of park planning and tourism in association with Global Parks and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation. She served as the Deputy Secretary, Land and Recreation at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection overseeing the Florida State Park System – which includes 175 parks, 800,000 acres, 100 miles of beaches, 7,500 miles of trails, 4,000 miles of paddling trails; and the Florida State Lands program providing oversight for 12 million acres of public lands, land sales acquisition and the Florida Forever program.


Check out Lassoing the Sun from the Library! - 

"Earnest and heartfelt, [Lassoing the Sun] captures how one family handles the joys and sorrows of life, with America’s most beautiful landscapes standing in the background."--Travel & Leisure


“I've done several columns about local places. Seems like this one ( might be fitting for a National Parks talk.” 


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