Originally, a park was a hunting ground owned by royalty, fenced in and closed off from the hoi polloi. From there, the meaning expanded to include any pleasure grounds, public or private, usually with lawns, trees, and amenities such as walkways and benches. By the seventeenth century there were plots in London known as parks set aside for all citizens to enjoy. By the nineteenth century, the term was applied in the United States to sporting grounds, as in ballpark. With the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, the term was expanded again, making room for such natural wonders as geysers and grizzlies. In the Rocky Mountains, forest openings, especially flat, grassy valley bottoms, are also known as parks. It was the latter meaning Mary Austin had in mind when she wrote in The Land of Little Rain: “They have a better name in the Rockies for these hill-fenced open glades of pleasantness; they call them parks.”

Scott Russell Sanders