Imade a mistake.
Last week, I mentioned the idea that it seems like all of our heroes eventually turn to zeroes. I was overly hyperbolic -- caught off guard by the fall of one of the greatest outdoor-related events in the nation.
But not all of our heroes fall. Far from it. Plenty of them have the strength and goodness it takes to withstand the brutal tests of time. One of them played a vital role in creating the outdoors heritage so many of us are proud of.
When most folks from York County hear the name Gifford Pinchot, they think of the popular state park in the county's northern half. But there's a man behind that name, a man who deserves timeless respect.
Pinchot was born in 1865 to a very wealthy family. It made its money hacking away at Pennsylvania's forests. At the time, there was no such thing as conservation. The nation's earliest generations merely saw forests as a vast money-making resource.
But as Pinchot grew into his teens, he started to see the error in his family's ways. He realized it was unsustainable. He decided to create a new profession. By most accounts, he was America's first forester. He wanted to build healthy forests instead of chopping them down. Pinchot was a pioneering conservationist.
As lucky as Pinchot was to be born into a wealthy family (which afforded him the luxury of studying at Yale and in France), he was just as fortunate to have a few powerful friends. One of them, of course, was Teddy Roosevelt.
Pinchot was one of the rare Americans who can lay claim to the feat of sparring with the president, knocking him to his knees, and not getting thrown in the slammer for it. Roosevelt and Pinchot were great friends. They thought alike and dreamed alike.
One of their dreams was to preserve huge swaths of America's landscape. Together, they worked to create a vast network of national parks. When Roosevelt appointed Pinchot the head of the country's new Forest Service, the Pennsylvanian's role as a leading hero of conservation was cemented.
Eventually, Pinchot would bring more than 200 million acres of national forest under professional land management -- keeping the railroad and industrial pioneers from clear-cutting what is now a national treasure.
After a heroic career with the Forest Service, Pinchot came home and served two terms as Pennsylvania's governor. He continued his conservation efforts while in office and the effects of his hard work remain visible today.
In fact, during the nation's Great Depression, Pinchot created work camps for the state's unemployed. The idea later served as the blueprint for the nation's Civilian Conservation Corps. More than 80 years later, the hard work of both of these groups greets visitors in many of the state's wild areas.
Pinchot died of leukemia in 1946. His death proved that no hero lasts forever, but if their work is good and honest, their legacy lives on.
Very few people have had the huge impact that Gifford Pinchot had on this state and our country. We should be proud to call him our hero.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.