A Student Set Out To Correct The National Park Service's Mistake, He Did
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Now a good news story about government - I know, right? It's the story of one citizen's journey to set the record straight with the National Park Service and the park ranger who helped him do it.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVE BRUBECK'S "TAKE FIVE")
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ned Ellis is a college student on a semester off. He's a forestry major, and he was looking at maps online one evening when he discovered a common omission from a couple of different websites.
NED ELLIS: I was looking at Wikipedia and the Mississippi River. I actually have a tattoo of the Mississippi River. But I just looked at all the states. And, you know, it looked like it really pushed up against a lot of borders of states that were and weren't counted. So I kind of just chose to investigate a little.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Page after page, Ned found that they were all saying the same thing - that water from 31 different states flows into the Mississippi one way or another. Now Ned did a little research, compared maps and found that the number should be 32. Every page he visited, including, finally, the official website of the National Park Service, had somehow missed a state. So he went to the Contact Us page on the NPS website. And he sent in his correction, which came to the inbox of a friendly park ranger, Lyndon Torstenson. Their correspondence follows. Here's Ned Ellis.
ELLIS: Hiya. I was recently perusing Google Maps and watersheds. And your website says the Mississippi River drains an area of about 3.2 million square kilometers, including all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces. But the Mississippi River drains all or parts of 32 states. You likely forgot Michigan, which - seems like all the webpages on the Mississippi River forgets. I'd be happy to send images for proof if you need it. Let me know what happens. Thanks, Ned.
LYNDON TORSTENSON: Hi, Ned. Thanks for your note. We do count Michigan. Here is our list of 31 states. Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois...
ELLIS: Hi, Lyndon. Thanks for getting back to me. I didn't really expect to get a response. My apologies. I assumed Michigan was a state you weren't counting. South Carolina has a couple pockets of land that are drained into the Mississippi too. So that's probably the state you're missing on the NPS website. Below is a screenshot from the USGS website showing how at a couple of different points, the drainages and very small creeks drop into South Carolina and then flow into North Carolina to the Mississippi. Thanks. Have a great day, Ned.
TORSTENSON: Huh. That's great to know. I will share this info and see if we can update our info as it relates to the Mississippi basin. Thanks so much.
ELLIS: No problem. Thanks for getting back to me. Have a great night.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When Ned and Lyndon had the chance to chat, Lyndon assured him the problem had been fixed.
TORSTENSON: I'm happy to say that the webpage is now corrected. And we now say that there are 32 states that drain water to the Mississippi River.
ELLIS: It's really comforting to know that I sent this email to a blank webpage, and I got a response from Lyndon. And it kind of - it goes to show that the federal government is a large beast of bureaucracy, but there are people just working and doing their job.
TORSTENSON: Thanks, Ned. I really appreciate that. And, you know, we above all feel that national parks belong to everyone. And their future depends on everyone and depends on people who care, people like you. And so I really want to thank you for caring enough to send a note to us to correct that mistake.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Ned Ellis and Lyndon Torstenson. And we, too, love to hear from you - corrections, compliments, Thanksgiving recipes. Tweet us. Write us. Wave at us.
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