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The National Parks: America's Best Idea Premieres September 27 through October 2, 2009 on WQED-TV (13.1 digital)

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania--The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, the latest documentary from award-winning producer Ken Burns, Florentine Films and WETA, premieres Sunday, September 27 on WQED Pittsburgh and PBS stations nationwide. To celebrate, WQED will air national parks programming, participate in region-wide screening events, and engage the public with interactive components on wqed.org. Tracing the birth of the national park idea to the mid-1800s, Burns follows the evolution of our nation’s parks through the last 150 years using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews.

Before the September 27 premiere, PBS Previews: The National Parks: America's Best Idea will air on September 2 and 8 at 9:30 p.m. and September 24 at 10:30 p.m. to give viewers a sneak peek at this new 12-hour series.WQED’s nightly news-magazine program OnQ will localize the national stories by featuring western Pennsylvania’s five national parks sites. These features will air beginning Monday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m. and include: Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Gallitzin, PA; Johnstown Flood National Memorial in South Fork, PA to air on September 28; Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset, PA; Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington, PA to air on September 29; and Friendship Hill National Historic Site in Point Marion, PA. The Flight 93 National Memorial feature aired in June and will encore September 30.

In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), WQED will provide visitors of Pennsylvania’s five sites with a brochure that for the first time ties them together as part of the national parks tradition and promotes the historic part western Pennsylvania played in the westward expansion of the United States.

A nationwide effort by the NPS and National Park Foundation (NPF) to promote Burns’s film is underway and screening events with information/sign-up booths for volunteer and membership opportunities will be available. Screenings are planned at Friendship Hill as part of its annual FestiFall events, and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial auditorium on Saturday, September 26 for National Public Lands Day.

On Saturday, September 26 WQED will make The National Parks: America’s Best Idea Celebration from Central Park program available free to the public from 4-5:30 p.m. at South Side Works Cinemas. Clips from the series, musical performances from: Eric Benet, Gavin DeGraw, Jose Feliciano, Carole King, Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, and Peter Yarrow, and appearances from Ken Burns, Peter Coyote (Narrator), Dayton Duncan (Writer & Co-Producer), and Shelton Johnson (Yosemite National Park Ranger), and PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger will round out this exclusive program. Those who attend will receive a 15% discount off the purchase of one item at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), be entered to win prizes, and receive a discount coupon worth $10 for the McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant.

WQED Interactive will feature: information on all of the related television programming; a video mini-player featuring five of Burns’s national parks mini documentaries called, America’s Untold Stories; an online tool for the public to upload personal stories and images from their own national parks trips and experiences; a link to the official PBS site for the series; and listings for WQED’s community engagement activities surrounding the show http://www.wqed.org/tv/national-parks.php

Burns’s six-part documentary will premiere and air consecutively on Sunday, September 27 and September 30-October 2 from 8-10 p.m. and on Tuesday, September 29 from 8-10:30 p.m. An encore presentation of the series will air October 11 through 16 at 8 p.m. and all day October 17 & 18 on WQED: The Neighborhood Channel.


PBS Previews: The National Parks: America's Best Idea

9/8 at 9:30pm and 9/24 at 10:30pm

PBS presents a preview of the new Ken Burns film THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA. The 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the script, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.

Yellowstone: Land to Life

9/8 at 9pm; 9/28 at 10:30pm

People come to Yellowstone primarily because of the unusual thermal features and opportunities to view wildlife, often not realizing they are standing on one of the world's largest active volcanoes. This film presents an interpretation of the sweeping geologic

story of Yellowstone, from glaciations to mountain-building to the gigantic caldera of a volcano. "Yellowstone: Land to Life" was filmed over two years in all four seasons and delves deeply into the significance behind the scenery. It also explores the bonds between the landscape and biology -- how Yellowstone's geology influences where life exists and how it evolves. The film also contemplates our connection as well: humankind's relationship to Yellowstone, the world's first and most famous national park.

Great Lodges of the National Parks (2-part series)

This two-part program is a fascinating tour of America's national parks and their charming historic lodges. The episodes take viewers to the edge of a volcano in Hawaii, to the Alaskan wilderness, to the rugged mountain peaks and pristine lakes of the Rockies, to Grand Teton, to the Olympic peninsula and to an oasis of hospitality in California's Death Valley. From familiar rustic "parkitecture" to the modern International Style, from a grand Spanish Revival resort to lumbered lake lodges and cabins in the mountains, GREAT LODGES tells the stories behind these national treasures and showcases the many ways to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of America's national parks.

Great Lodges of the National Parks #201

9/23 at 8pm

This episode takes viewers to the surreal desert landscape of Death Valley and the Furnace Creek Inn, a historic four-diamond hotel that rises from the red rock like a shimmering oasis. In the lush Pacific Northwest, Lake Quinault Lodge nestles in the heart of the Olympic National Forest, delighting guests with such old-fashioned pleasures as a hike in the woods or a game of chess by the fire. It's a step back in time at Wallowa Lake Lodge, where every item has been lovingly restored to its original 1920s condition. Finally, visitors can pay their respects to Pele the goddess of fire at the historic Volcano House in Hawaii's thrilling Volcanoes National Park.

Great Lodges of the National Parks #202

9/23 at 9pm

Rough it in style with Episode 2 of GREAT LODGES OF THE NATIONAL PARKS. Rocky Mountain National Park is just out your back door at the grand and graceful Stanley Hotel, which may look familiar to fans of Stephen King's The Shining. At Jackson Lake Lodge, enjoy the magnificent views personally selected by John D. and Laurence Rockefeller when they built this modern masterpiece at the foot of Grand Teton. Here you can breakfast like a cowboy on an incredible early morning mountain trail ride. Then it's on to Alaska, where rivers of ice march into the ocean and bear fish from the water's edge at Glacier Bay Lodge, and where North America's highest peak greets you each day in your cozy cabin at the wild and remote Camp Denali.

Wallace Stegner

9/23 at 10pm

This film is a portrait of the conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner. He was many things: teacher, historian and environmentalist but, above all, Wallace Stegner was a writer. Considered by many to be the "Dean" of western writers, he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and non-fiction author, with more than 30 full-length works and countless essays addressing the landscape, humankind's footprint and the evolution of a region and nation. Producer John Howe has captured the tremendous influence Stegner has been on the lives of generations of readers and students.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The Scripture of Nature (Episode One) (1851 – 1890)

9/27 at 8pm

In 1851, word spreads across the country of a beautiful area of California’s Yosemite Valley, attracting visitors who wish to exploit the land’s scenery for commercial gain and those who wish to keep it pristine. Among the latter is a Scottish-born wanderer named John Muir, for whom protecting the land becomes a spiritual calling. In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects Yosemite from commercial development for “public use, resort and recreation” — the first time in world history that any government has put forth this idea — and hands control of the land to California. Meanwhile, a “wonderland” in the northwest corner of the Wyoming territory attracts visitors to its bizarre landscape of geysers, mud pots and sulfur pits. In 1872, Congress passes an act to protect this land as well. Since it is located in a territory, rather than a state, it becomes America’s first national park: Yellowstone.

“The Last Refuge” (Episode Two) (1890-1915)

9/28 at 8pm

By the end of the 19th century, widespread industrialization has left many Americans worried about whether the country — once a vast wilderness — will have any pristine land left. At the same time, poachers in the parks are rampant, and visitors think nothing of littering or carving their names near iconic sites like Old Faithful. Congress has yet to establish clear judicial authority or appropriations for the protection of the parks. This sparks a conservation movement by organizations such as the Sierra Club, led by John Muir; the Audubon Society, led by George Bird Grinnell; and the Boone and Crockett Club, led by Theodore Roosevelt. The movement fails, however, to stop San Francisco from building the Hetch Hetchy dam at Yosemite, flooding Muir’s “mountain temple” and leaving him broken-hearted before he dies.

“The Empire of Grandeur” (Episode Three) (1915-1919)

9/29 at 8pm

In the early 20th century, America has a dozen national parks, but they are a haphazard patchwork of special places under the supervision of different federal agencies. The conservation movement, after failing to stop the Hetch Hetchy dam, pushes the government to establish one unified agency to oversee all the parks, leading to the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. Its first director, Stephen Mather, a wealthy businessman and passionate park advocate who fought vigorously to establish the NPS, launches an energetic campaign to expand the national park system and bring more visitors to the parks. Among his efforts is to protect the Grand Canyon from encroaching commercial interests and establish it as a national park, rather than a national monument.

“Going Home” (Episode Four) (1920-1933)

9/30 at 8pm

While visiting the parks was once predominantly the domain of Americans wealthy enough to afford the high-priced train tours, the advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. Mather embraces this opportunity and works to build more roads in the parks. Some park enthusiasts, such as Margaret and Edward Gehrke of Nebraska, begin “collecting” parks, making a point to visit as many as they can. In North Carolina, Horace Kephart, a reclusive writer, and George Masa, a Japanese immigrant, launch a campaign to protect the last strands of virgin forest in the Smoky Mountains by establishing it as a park. In Wyoming, John D. Rockefeller Jr. begins quietly buying up land in the Teton Mountain Range and valley in a secret plan to donate it to the government as a park.

“Great Nature” (Episode Five) (1933-1945)

10/1 at 8pm

To battle unemployment in the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Civilian Conservation Corps, which spawns a “golden age” for the parks through major renovation projects. In a groundbreaking study, a young NPS biologist named George Melendez Wright discovers widespread abuses of animal habitats and pushes the service to reform its wildlife policies. Congress narrowly passes a bill to protect the Everglades in Florida as a national park — the first time a park has been created solely to preserve an ecosystem, as opposed to scenic beauty. As America becomes entrenched in World War II, Roosevelt is pressured to open the parks to mining, grazing and lumbering. The president also is subjected to a storm of criticism for expanding the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming by accepting a gift of land secretly purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr.

“The Morning of Creation” (Episode Six) (1946-1980)

10/2 at 8pm

Following World War II, the parks are overwhelmed as visitation reaches 62 million people a year. A new billion-dollar campaign — Mission 66 — is created to build facilities and infrastructure that can accommodate the flood of visitors. A biologist named Alfred Murie introduces the revolutionary notion that predatory animals, which are still hunted, deserve the same protection as other wildlife. In Florida, Lancelot Jones, the grandson of a slave, refuses to sell to developers his family’s property on a string of unspoiled islands in Biscayne Bay and instead sells it to the federal government to be protected as a national monument. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter creates an uproar in Alaska when he sets aside 56 million acres of land for preservation — the largest expansion of protected land in history. In 1995, wolves are re-established in Yellowstone, making the world’s first national park a little more like what it once was.

Gettysburg’s New Battle: Saving the Stone Soldiers

9/27 at 10pm

Tourists from around the world admire the 1300 monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania. However, time, nature and vandals are taking a toll. This documentary explores efforts to protect, repair and raise funds for the monuments. But more importantly, it showcases the people who know that the best way to physically preserve these "stone soldiers" is to make sure America knows the fascinating human stories behind them.

Mystery of George Masa

9/29 at 10pm

THE MYSTERY OF GEORGE MASA chronicles the life of George Masa, a Japanese immigrant who became well known in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina as a great photographer, hiker and explorer. A major character in Ken Burns’s The National Parks: America's Best Idea series to air in September 2009, this is the complete story of Masa who was instrumental in the founding of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the mapping and building of the Appalachian Trail. But his mysterious past, his untimely death, and the passage of time have clouded our knowledge and appreciation of George Masa. Until now. THE MYSTERY OF GEORGE MASA recaptures many interesting details about Masa's life, work, and influential friends, as well as his lasting impact on the preservation movement. Told through interviews with a few living acquaintances, historians' accounts, Masa's own words from personal letters and journals, subtle re-creations, and a wonderful collection of the subject's own photographs, THE MYSTERY OF GEORGE MASA uncovers many of the secrets that surround this immigrant's story.

Paving the Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway (2-part series)

PAVING THE WAY details the story of twelve motorists who took a 5, 000-mile epic road trip before there were gas stations and fully paved roads. In 1920, the inaugural tour of the Park-to-Park Highway connected all twelve National Parks in the American West. They promoted tourism to the Parks and better roads for motorists. During the early days of the automobile, when cars got stuck in the mud, they were still being towed out by horses, and gravity-fed fuel lines caused problems up steep grades. Only the rich could afford travel by train or by horse to the National Parks, but the 1920 inaugural tour opened the door for the "everyman," with his newly affordable automobile, to visit them as well.

Paving the Way “See America First” #101H

9/30 at 10pm

At a time when train travel to the National Parks was only for the wealthy, this program follows the convergence of U.S. Land being set aside for all people, the development of the "autos for the everyman" and the need to escape the drone of WWI and the 1918 flu pandemic. With this need for release, 12 intrepid motorists embark upon the 1920 inaugural tour of the National Park-to-Park Highway. Traveling 5,000 miles over 76 days to promote the need for good roads, these individuals also explore the idea of what it means to 'See America First' while touring in the western United States, instead of visiting their ancestry in war torn Europe.

Paving the Way “Welcome Home” #102H

10/1 at 10pm

Continue the journey of the 1920 inaugural tour of the National Park-to-Park Highway. Tour members are faced with the decision to turn back or journey on as they are without their leader. With some of the most magnificent vistas still ahead, they learn what it really means to be road weary, but at the same time find the pure joy of a true American experience -The Road Trip.

WQED Pittsburgh, honored with the 2007 and 2006 Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award for Station Excellence, was founded in 1954 as the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster. WQED creates, produces and distributes quality programs, products and services to engage, inform, educate and entertain the public within its community and around the world. WQED Pittsburgh is one of the first broadcasters in the country to be fully high-definition (HD) in its studio and field production capabilities. It is the parent company of WQED-TV (PBS); WQED: The Neighborhood Channel; WQED: The Create Channel; WQEX-TV (A ShopNBC affiliate); Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive (www.wqed.org); and The WQED Education Department.

Funding for The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is provided by Genral Motors; the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; Park Foundation, Inc.; Public Broadcasting Service; National Park Foundation; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; The Pew Charitable Trusts; and Bank of America.

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