Nine-year-old Robbie Bond is on a mission to protect the country’s national monuments and parks, and in the process, he’s well on his way to visiting all 27 sites by the end of the year.
On Tuesday, he checked Canyons of the Ancients in Southwest Colorado off that list.
“They don’t teach national parks and monuments in schools, and I’d like to change that,” Robbie said on a visit to The Durango Herald offices Monday. “I hope to educate kids because I think it’s a really important subject.”
Robbie and his parents, Robin and Michelle, originally set out in April to visit the nation’s parks and monuments using the Every Kid in a Park pass initiated by President Barack Obama that allows fourth-graders in free.
However, when U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this year, at the direction of President Donald Trump, a review of national parks and monuments, Robbie’s vacation turned into vocation.
Zinke recommended last week the shrinking of the boundaries at a handful of national monuments, but refused to make public any specific changes and would not release his report.
With his parents’ help, Robbie started a nonprofit called Kids Speak for Parks to help kids understand the importance of protecting these culturally and ecologically important places.
Since, Robbie’s quest has attracted the attention of the Huffington Post and Patch.com, and even earned the sponsorship of outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia.
To date, Robbie and his family, from Hawaii have visited 10 national monuments throughout California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. He plans to finish visiting all the parks by the end of the year, he said.
Asked what he would tell Trump if he had the chance, Robbie said:
“I would probably ask him to go to the monuments because you can’t really experience the monuments without going to them,” he said. “He should learn about them because I think if he does, he’ll have an appreciation for them and not get rid of them or downsize them.”
Robbie’s father, Robin, said he didn’t expect to receive the attention they did on a family vacation. Now, on visits to monuments or parks, knowledgeable locals, scientists and tribal members show up and give them a tour.
“This was started from the heart,” Robin said. “We’re not calling or scheduling. People are just showing up.”
Michelle, Robbie’s mother, said the response has been overwhelming.
“It’s just been wonderful hearing from so many people all over the world, sending emails, wishing him the best and standing up for his cause,” she said. “We’re really proud of him.”
Robbie, through Kids Speak for Parks, hopes to connect more kids with the monuments through getting them actually in the parks and more innovative ways such as virtual reality tours.
“You can’t protect things you don’t understand,” Robbie said. “Because you don’t know a lot about it, so you can’t protect it.”