Mark Woods


I’m the metro columnist for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla. In 2012, I’m taking a sabbatical, spending a year exploring and writing about America’s national parks — specifically the future of our parks.

With the centennial of the National Park Service around the corner in 2016, I am trying to answer this question: What will our national parks look like, sound like and feel like in another 100 years?

This was made possible when I won the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing, an award that each year gives one writer the opportunity to “broaden his or her journalistic horizons.” In my case, the fellowship proposal involved iconic American horizons, starting atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park when the sun comes up on New Year’s Day — the first sunrise of another year in the United States — and continuing across the country and throughout the year.

This isn’t just an excuse to spend time in beautiful places, meeting interesting people and having flashbacks to the family trips we made when I was about 10 years old. OK, it’s partly an excuse to do exactly that. But it’s also about examining the threats to our national parks — including whether my daughter, now 10, and her generation will be connected to my idea of the happiest places on earth.

More examples of my work

  • Haiti after the earthquake: a place of hope, fear and — most of all — perspective
  • A year in New Orleans: the sound of a city coming back to life
  • Queen Cara: the story of how a girl with Down syndrome went from eating lunch by herself to being voted homecoming queen
  • Mr. Willie: how a reclusive old man living in the woods gave Jacksonville one of its greatest gifts ever — those woods, now part of a national park in the middle of the city
  • The Best Christmas Ever: a Catholic priest, a worn notebook and memories of the Battle of Fallujah
  • Stinky Frog: a little boy’s lost toy brings together two mothers
  • The Iraq War: trip to Middle East leaves me a “big confused”
  • The Hit: how one big hit at a football practice changed Oshay Johnson and his small town
  • The Grand Canyon: turning 50 and trying to run Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim