Since 2015, Reddit users have been sharing funny one-star Yelp reviews written by disgruntled visitors.
But laughing and smh-ing at the haters wasn’t enough for designer and illustrator Amber Share. The Raleigh-based outdoor enthusiast had always wanted to do a project based on the national park system but was looking for a fresh angle. In 2019, when Share discovered that visitors had left one-star reviews for every one of the 62 U.S. national parks, she’d found her angle.
During the Depression, the WPA commissioned artists to create posters promoting U.S. travel as well as the still relatively new National Park System. The poster project produced prints for 14 parks in a now-iconic style—a flat illustration representing a distinctive view in each park, executed in a limited color palette, within a white border and overlaid at the bottom with the park’s name and information. The WPA was disbanded in 1941 when the United States entered World War II, but the poster project was revived in the 1970s, when the originals were reissued and new posters (in the original style) were created for additional parks.
Working with the iconic template of the WPA posters series for inspiration, Share created a poster for her favorite NPS destination, Arches National Park. The resulting work—an illustration of the grand landscape overlaid with an artfully hand-lettered snippet of a negative review—strikes a deliciously wry tone.
And so Share’s 62-park project, Subpar Parks, began.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Subpar Parks (@subparparks) on Dec 4, 2019 at 6:40am PST
In the five months since she began posting the work on an Instagram page #subparparks, Share has uploaded the first 21 posters in the series and has also amassed 110,000 followers. You can also follow along on her Twitter page, #subparparks. (Share added Haleakala National Park at the beginning of March.) Her online store—a resource for park lovers and haters to pick up mugs, stickers, cards, postcards, 8x10 prints—is in a near-constant cycle of selling out and restocking. (How deep is her love? Share donates a portion of the sales to the National Park Service.)
Here are a few of our favorites of Share’s posters, each followed by a quote about the park from someone who felt a little differently than the person who left the bad Yelp review:
Yosemite National Park, California
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Subpar Parks (@subparparks) on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:07am PST
“This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.”
—John Muir on Yosemite National Park
Buy Now: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, $30, amazon.com
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
View this post on Instagram Just goes to show you that with the right mindset, even the deepest lake in the US, which is literally in a COLLAPSED VOLCANO, can be boring. . . . #craterlake #naturalwonder #craterlakenationalpark #weareparks #nationalparkgeek @nationalparkservice A post shared by Subpar Parks (@subparparks) on Mar 4, 2020 at 7:01am PST
“I thought I had gazed upon everything beautiful in nature as I have spent my years traveling thousands of miles to visit the beauty spots of the earth, but I have reached the climax. Never again can I gaze upon the beauty spots of the earth and enjoy them as being the finest thing I have ever seen. Crater Lake is above them all.”
—Jack London on Crater Lake
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Subpar Parks (@subparparks) on Jan 22, 2020 at 6:38am PST
“Honeysuckle vine clings to the fence along the lane
Their fragrance makes the summer wind so sweet
And on a distant hilltop, an eagle spreads its wings
And a songbird on a fence post sings a melody
In my Tennessee mountain home
Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh
In my Tennessee mountain home
Crickets sing in the fields near by.”
—Dolly Parton on the Smoky Mountains in “My Tennessee Mountain Home”
Buy Now: My Tennessee Mountain Home, from $8, amazon.com
All poster images are courtesy of Amber Share / Subpar Parks.
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>>Next: See AFAR’s National Parks inspiration hub