Ken Burns: The National Parks

KCTS 9’s mission involves bringing award-winning PBS programming to the widest possible audience online, on air and in the community. In FY2010, we achieved this with a multiplatform project to complement and extend the reach of the 12-part documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea from filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan. Through an educational community outreach initiative, complementary local programming and a robust interactive website, we aimed to promote the series; increase awareness of the national parks; get young people excited about the parks and the outdoors; and engage people with the idea that they are stewards of the national parks.

" This was a fantastic opportunity for us to connect with people who are interested in our programs…. Thank you for your hard work in getting the news out about this wonderful and important film—it showcases important issues to our nation’s future, and the legacy of our natural resources, both in our youth and our land. "
- Erica Nixon Mack, Program Director, Passages NW

We began in January 2009 with a summit of community leaders interested in the welfare of the national parks. In April 2009, we presented "An Evening with Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan" at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. Through September 2009, nearly one million people tuned in to watch the The National Parks: America’s Best Idea on KCTS 9, with ratings that outperformed the national average. In November and December 2009, KCTS 9 planned promotional and engagement activities around the Spanish-language broadcast on Vme.

KCTS 9 also created original programming to complement The National Parks. The two-part National Parks: Northwest Stories told stories of our own parks—from volunteers flocking to restore roadways and campsites along Mount Rainier after the 2006 floods to salmon fishers who remember a time before the Elwha Dam. Our documentary North Cascades: People, Places and Stories was the centerpiece of a campaign to connect people to nature. We also featured filmmaker Ken Burns in an episode of Conversations at KCTS 9.

In the course of one year, through dozens of community screenings and events, a summit and a digital storytelling contest —and with the assistance of 30 community partners throughout Washington State and British Columbia including King County Library System, the North Cascades Institute and REI—KCTS 9 connected more than 6,000 people with the story of America’s National Parks.