Editor's note: Hoanganh Nguyen, a San Jose resident, shares her perspective from an event headlined by local Congressman Mike Honda in January. More so than being a breath of fresh air, she writes, national parks are a great source of history and should be preserved.
As a resident of San Jose, I appreciate that I live close to many beautiful outdoor areas in California. National Parks, Forests and Monuments are just a drive away – from the Tahoe National Forest to the Muir Woods National Monument. But as a busy community volunteer, I haven’t thought much about the significance of these places or how they came to be set aside as protected places.
Recently, I attended a “Sustainable Communities” forum organized by the San Jose-based Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI). The forum presented a panel of experts on regional planning, affordable housing, and transportation, as well as national monuments.
Congressman Mike Honda – our representative in Washington – headlined the event, adding his perspective and expertise to the discussion. I appreciate that he took the time to meet with the people he represents and answer their questions.
One of the featured speakers at the forum was Clarence Moriwaki, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Committee. Mr. Moriwaki spoke about working to make sure that the memory of Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed to internment camps during World War II will not be forgotten.
Mr. Moriwaki led a decade long effort to make the former Eagledale Ferry Dock on Bainbridge Island in Washington State a memorial and part of our National Park system. Bainbridge Island was the first place in the country where Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes. Families were gathered by soldiers armed with rifles at the Eagledale Ferry Dock and then sent to an internment camp in Manzanar, California.
Mr. Moriwaki raised local, regional, and national support for the project. Ultimately, in 2008, the president designated the site to be the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial, protected as part of our National Park System.
Fittingly, “Nidoto Nai Yoni” – “Let It Not Happen Again” – is the motto of the memorial. Thanks to Mr. Moriwaki and the community support for this memorial, a part of our history will be preserved, helping future generations to remember this tragic chapter in our country’s past and indeed, to “let it not happen again.”
Hearing Mr. Moriwaki speak about this topic gave me a fresh sense of appreciation for all our national parks, forests, and monuments. These are places where we can enjoy the great outdoors, spend time with our families, and breathe in fresh air. But they can also be places that preserve our community’s history – a physical reminder of our past and a memorial for future generations.
I’ll be sharing what I learned at this forum with my family and friends and looking for opportunities to support our national parks, forests, and monuments. For all our communities, let’s continue to protect these special places.