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John Hollenhorst Reporting First Lady Laura Bush flew into Utah today and traveled by motorcade into the heart of Utah scenery. She came partly because she plans to spend a week hiking with her childhood friends and partly to highlight a kids program in Zion National Park.
No one can remember the last time a motorcade traveled through Southern Utah with a member of the First Family. In all the magnificent scenery of Zion National Park, the focus was on a humble structure built as a cafeteria in 1934.
Tom Haraden with Zion National Park explains, "In 1974 it was turned over to the National Park Service and we've been using it for the 'Junior Ranger' program ever since."
Former schoolteacher Laura Bush received a standing ovation when she rededicated the renovated building.
Laura Bush, first lady of the United States, said, "Through Junior Rangers young people can explore our parks with especially designed education for children, from specially guided park tours to wildlife coloring books. Some, we hope, will grow up to be real life park rangers."
She also mixed in a little politics, patting her husband on the back for a national parks budget increase. "Today President Bush is asking individual citizens to make sure Zion and other national parks will be preserved and enhanced throughout the next 100 years," Mrs. Bush said.
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne was also there. He said, "In his 2008 budget, the President made the largest commitment ever to the future of our national parks."
At best, though, the president's plan will pump only $3 billion to $4 billion into the parks over 10 years, and the needs are estimated at up to $9 billion.
David Nimkin with the National Parks Conservation Association said, "It's a start, though, and we hope that future Congresses and administrations will choose to reinvest in our parks."
While she spends the week hiking in Zion, the First Lady will be under Secret Service protection. There will be no other public events, and details of her trip are being kept secret.