Category Archives: Next Parks

Two New Civil Rights Additions to the National Park System

One of two new civil rights-related national monuments commemorates the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo of the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC from 2011.

Just one week before leaving office, on January 12, 2017, President Barack Obama proclaimed three new National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, and added those monuments to the National Park System.  Two of those National Monuments, Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Freedom Riders National Monument, both in central Alabama, will preserve locations associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1960’s.

Prior to these designations, there were already a handful of National Park Service Units dedicated to the story of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the post-World War II era.  Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas preserves the story of the pivotal 1954 Supreme Court case that led to nationwide desegregation of the schools.  Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site  in Arkansas preserves the story of the contentious desegregation effort at that school three years later in 1957.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia preserves the home where the civil rights leader lived from his birth in 1929 until 1941, as well as the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he would jointly serve as pastor with his father into the 1950’s and 60’s.  There is also the relatively new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC.   In addition, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC interprets the story of several civil rights moments from history, including the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

Most notable of the National Park Service sites from this time period, however, is one place that that doesn’t actually count among the 417 units of the National Park System, the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama.    Despite having two Visitor Centers and being staffed by uniformed National Park Service Rangers, National Historic Trails are not given full national park status.   Nonetheless, visitors to the Trail can follow the route of the famous Voting Rights March of March 1965, which were led in part by Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Park Service map of the new Freedom Riders National Monument in and around Anniston, Alabama.The two new sites fill in more of the civil rights timeline between the two school desegregation sites from the 1950’s, and the Voting Rights March in 1965.   Freedom Riders National Monument preserves two sites associated with a particular 1961 effort by activists to exercise their right to desegregated facilities in intercity bus service, and the violent effort by desegregation opponents to oppose them.    The plan for this “Freedom Ride” was to send a mixed-race group of civil rights activists to ride together on two intercity buses from Washington, DC to New Orleans, Louisiana.  The route for that trip would take the riders through much of the Deep South where they knew that tactics of intimidation, sometimes violent intimidation, were used to prevent racial minorities from making use of desegregated facilities.

The first bus was a Greyhound Bus, and when that bus pulled into the town of Anniston in eastern Alabama it was attached by a violent mob that slashed the bus’ tires and broke its windows with rocks.  The old Greyhound bus station in Anniston is now one of the two sites that comprise this new national monument.

Eventually, police officers arrived, and they provided an escort for the bus to leave the station – along with an “escort” of protesters from the mob.   Two cars from the rioters pulled in front of the bus and slowed down in order to slow the bus’s progress.  The bus made it six miles west down Highway 202 towards Birmingham before the slashed tires finally gave out.  The bus driver pulled to the side of the road, and the mob descended again, throwing fire bombs into the broken windows of the bus.  The Freedom Riders struggled to escape from the burning bus, even as the mob acted to try and prevent them from escaping.   Eventually they did break free, and were given some treatment at the Anniston hospital before civil rights leaders from Birmingham were able to arrange their transfer to the Birmingham hospital.   A site of nearly 6 acres where the bus burning took place is now the other site comprising this National Monument.

National Park Service map of the new Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, showing the location of the Galston Motel and Kelly Ingram Park, among other locations.

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument includes a four-and-a-half block area in downtown Birmingham.  The only site within the Monument boundaries that will be Federally-owned is the former A. G. Gaston Motel.   The Gaston Motel was itself owned by an African-American businessman, and was the best hotel in Birmingham at which the African-American civil rights activists could find accommodations.   In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference arrived in Birmingham to plan a series of marches and sit-ins to protest segregation in the city.

On April 6, 1963, the first attempt to march on Birmingham City Hall began at the Galston Motel, but ended with the protestors being arrested within three blocks.  The next day, a march began at the nearby St. Paul United Methodist Church, but was stopped after just one block in Kelly Ingram Park.  Both of those sites are located within the authorized boundaries for the new National Monument.

A few days later, the City of Birmingham obtained an injunction against King and other civil rights leaders prohibiting future marches.  Nonetheless, April 12th dawned as Good Friday that year, and the leaders went ahead with a planned march anyways – an act for which they were promptly arrested.  It was after this arrest that King wrote his seminal essay, Letter from Birmingham Jail, laying out the philosophical and moral justification for his campaign of nonviolent protest against segregation.

It was in this letter that King wrote the memorable words “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”   These words are now inscribed on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Particularly striking to me, however, is another passage of the Letter in which King addresses his justification for defiantly breaking laws, and thus have led him to the circumstances of writing from within a Birmingham Jail.  He starts by reflecting on the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and then invoking principles of moral philosophy and theology.

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may want to ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”

For Dr. King, the laws of segregation are unjust because they, quote, “degrade human personality.”   The laws of Alabama, and King presumably has in mind here particularly the laws governing protest and assembly,  are also unjust because they are not equally applied to the majority and the minority alike, but instead are only applied to the minority.  Moreover,  King argues that all of these laws were also unjust because they were only enacted as a result of so many blacks having been denied the right to vote.   As King writes in his letter, “who can say that the legislature of Alabama, which set up the state’s segregation laws, was democratically elected?”

Words from King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, inscribed on the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo from 2016.

Having laid out his case for the fundamental injustice of the laws of Alabama, King then turns his attention to one of the great philosophical questions: “what is the role of a just man in an unjust world?”   Here King lays out his radical justification for his program of non-violent protest, and for working within the American system rather than to overthrow it.  He writes:

In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

King loved the law, and so he willingly accepted the penalty.    This was despite the fact that his fourth child, daughter Bernice, had been born just two weeks earlier.  King would ultimately spend nine days in jail, finally being released on April 20th.

After King’s release from prison, the civil rights campaign in Birmingham would continue to escalate.  A key turning point was the decision of organizers to use children in the protests to reinvigorate the campaign and advance the goal of drawing national attention to the injustice in Birmingham.  Beginning May 2nd, thousands of high school and even elementary students began leaving school to participate in marches.  A great many of them would be peacefully arrested.  In other cases, the city of Birmingham authorities would escalate the situation by using police dogs and extremely powerful fire hoses to disrupt the marches.   By May 5th, some of the African-American crowds that had gathered in Kelly Ingram Park themselves began to turn violent, responding to police violence by throwing rocks and other debris – despite the efforts of civil rights leaders to maintain non-violence.  As the crisis continued to escalate, normal business in downtown Birmingham ground to a halt.  By May 8, business leaders began calling for desegregation, and by May 10 a political deal was reached to end the crisis, release most of the protesters from jail, and to repeal Birmingham’s segregation ordinances.

As the crisis came to an end, a bomb blast would heavily damage the Galston Motel on the night of May 11, only a few hours after King himself had left.   King would then go on to lead the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington in August of that year. His efforts would lead to passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 in July of that year, and he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of non-violent protest in October of 1964.

Sunset on the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo from 2012.
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Welcome Castle Mountains National Monument to the National Park System

Castle Mountains National Monument is the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov
Castle Mountains National Monument is the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov

On Friday February 12, 2016, President Obama visited Palm Springs, California to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate three new national monuments in California’s Mojave Desert.

Two of those new national monuments, the Mojave Trails National Monument and the Sand to Snow National Monument will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System.  Both of them are “gap-filling” monuments.  The Mojave Trails National Monument forms a U-shaped ring around the southern edges of the existing Mojave National Preserve in California, as well as protects a corridor connecting Mojave National Preserve to its more-famous cousin, Joshua Tree National Park.   The Sand to Snow National Monument preserves most of the land in a corridor connecting the western end of Joshua Tree National Park to the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which President Obama himself proclaimed in 2014.

The third, Castle Mountains National Monument, becomes the newest unit of the National Park System, bringing the total number of national parks to 410.   According to reporting in The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, when Mojave National Preserve was first created in 1994, Senator Diane Feinstein ensured that the Castle Mountains were excluded from the then-new national park in order to protect gold mining interests in the area.  Two decades later, Senator Feinstein began championing a new proposal to expand the protected areas of the Mojave Desert, including creating the two aforementioned national monuments.  This proposal also called for bringing most of the Castle Mountains into the fold of Mojave National Preserve, leaving a much-smaller parcel of land outside the park boundaries to accommodate the Hart Gold Mine.   This map shows how Castle Mountains National Monument “fills the gap” inside Mojave National Preserve,  and how the Hart Gold Mine will remain a “doughnut hole” (with an access road) inside Castle Mountains. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to get her Mojave Desert protection bill through the normal legislative process in Congress, she turned to President Obama and the Antiquities Act.

Another view of the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov
Another view of the newest national park. Despite the name, the new park includes both the namesake Castle Mountains, as well as surrounding desert areas that partially “fill the gap” In the existing borders of Mojave National Preserve.  Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov

So in some ways, Castle Mountains National Monument is an “accidental national park.” Since the President of the United States does not have the authority to add new land to an existing national park, but does have the authority to create a new national park using the Antiquities Act.  So if the Castle Mountains had been included in the original Mojave National Preserve in 1994, or even if the Castle Mountains had been added to Mojave National Preserve by Congress at any time over the last four years, there’s probably one less national park, and I’m probably not writing this post.

Still, the Castle Mountains do seem to have legitimately beautiful scenery – as some of the publicity shots being released with the new national monument designation amply demonstrate.  Additionally, the Castle Mountains will also have the advantage of branding.  After all, who wouldn’t want to go hiking in a place with a name like “Castle Mountains National Monument?”  The very name makes it sound like a place to find an adventure.

The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve will likely be the closest information point for Castle Mountains National Monument. Photo from 2007.
The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve will likely be the closest information point for Castle Mountains National Monument. Photo from 2007.

For the immediate, future, however, the Castle Mountains will likely remain relatively difficult to visit.   Just reaching the boundaries of the new national park will require travelling around 10 miles down remote dirt roads.   It remains to be seen if the National Park Service will pursue any kind of visitor facilities in this new park, such as establishing any permanent hiking trails, let alone improving a road into the park of even establishing and staffing a ranger station in the new park.  For now, visitor information will be handled out of Mojave National Preserve.  Certainly one possibility would be for Congress to eventually combine together Mojave National Preserve and Castle Mountains National Monument into a single park, although considering that Congress did proposed legislation to do this for several years, that seems unlikely.  For now, visitor services will be handled out of Mojave National Preserve, the main visitor for which is in the historic Kelso Depot, a former train station in the middle of the desert, and a place with a history all its own.

In the meantime, the Castle Mountains of the Mojave Desert become a new place on the bucket list for national park completists, and the sort of destination of which dreams of a new national parks adventure are made.   This image by Justin Weiss is a nearly-perfect representation of that, prints of the image can be purchased, proceeds from which benefit the National Parks Conservation Association advocacy group.

Historic-style National Park Service poster by Justin Weiss.
Historic-style National Park Service poster by Justin Weiss.

 

 

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Welcome Waco Mammoth National Monument as the 408th National Park

A mural of what the Columbian Mammoth herd may have looked like at Waco.  Photo from nps.gov
A mural of what the Columbian Mammoth herd may have looked like at Waco. Photo from nps.gov

Its amazing to think that less than one year ago, there were not any  national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils – and now there are two!  The first is the Tule Springs Fossil Beds near Las Vegas, Nevada, which was established by Congress in December 2014.  The second is the newest unit of the National Park System, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which was established by Presidential Proclamation under the Antiquities Act on July 10, 2015.  Prior to 2014 there were six national parks specifically dedicated to fossils in the name of the park, but all of them from eras predating the age of the mammoths:

By contrast,  mammoths lived  in North America during the Pleistocene time period, from about 2 million years ago to around 10,000 years ago.  Specifically, the mammoths at Tule Springs died approximately 250,000 years ago and the mammoths at Waco died approximately 68,000 years ago.   The mammoths at both sites are considered to be Columbian Mammoths, a species of mammoth that is related to the smaller, but more-famous, Wooly Mammoths that lived in Siberia and northern North America.  Likewise, both sites would predate the arrival of the first humans to the Americas, which different theories date as occuring anywhere between 12,000 years ago to as much as 40,000 years ago.

In addition to the age of their respective mammoth fossils being hundreds of thousands of years apart, two other things distinguish Waco Mammoth National Monument from Tule Springs National Monument and make them each unique in their own way.  First, Tule Springs is currently almost completely undeveloped.  It has no visitor center, and no displays of exposed fossils, whether in situ (still in the ground) or anywhere else.  Visiting it requires some hiking and some imagination. The second is that the Waco site preserves a nursery herd of mammoths – the only known such fossils of its kind in the United States.  This makes the fossils here especially valuable, as they tell us a great deal about how mammoths reproduced, raised their young, and how they lived with others.

The Waco Mammoth Site features displays of mammoth fossils still located in the ground.  Photo Credit: E. Wilson
The Waco Mammoth Site features displays of mammoth fossils still located in the ground. Photo Credit: E. Wilson

 

Although these are the first two national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils, it turns out that mammoth fossils can be found as a secondary feature at a few other national parks.  Among the most notable is Channel Islands National Park.  Although most visitors to Channel Islands National Park, located off the cost of Los Angeles, California, either go for the scenery, or perhaps for activities like sea kayaking, hiking, or whale watching, 40,000 years ago the Channel Islands were home to the Pygmy Mammoth, a species found nowhere else in the world.

There are also two other national parks that are dedicated to the archeology of the peoples who hunted mammoths.   Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is in one of the remotest corners of western Alaska, and preserves the archeological legacy of the first American settlers who likely followed herds of wooly mammoths across the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age.   The second is Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in the panhandle of north Texas, where some of the earliest Americans obtained flint for their spearheads with which to hunt the Columbian Mammoths found at Waco and at Tule Springs.  Naturally, the presence of humans at both sites indicates that they are much more recent than the two new national monuments dedicated to mammoths.

Likewise, it should be mentioned that perhaps the most-famous mammoth fossil site in the United States is not part of the U.S. National Park System.  Mammoth fossils have been found at the La Brea tar pits near Los Angeles, California which is now part of the Page Museum.  The fossils there also date from relatively recent history, from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Mammoths were also featured by the National Park Service as part of the 2012 National Fossil Day artwork.  According to their info, mammoth fossils have also been found at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado,  Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Utah-Arizona border, and of all places, Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, very few visitors to these Parks would have come away with any deeper appreciation for the way in which mammoth fossils are found, or for the ways in which mammoths lived and thrived in this country, literally for millions of years.   Waco Mammoth National Monument in particular will provide an outstanding opportunity for education about these wonderful creatures.

Its fascintating to think about how sites like Waco Mammoth connect to our present-day world.   Although these were not the Wooly Mammoths of Siberia, its still amazing to think of these giant beasts living in places like central Texas, Las Vegas, and southern California.  In fact, these giant beasts roamed here “only” a few tens of thousands of years, which really puts into context the tens of millions of years that separate us from the other fossil-focused national parks in the National Park System.

Another example of the outstanding mammoth fossils at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  Photo credit: E. Wilson
Another example of the outstanding mammoth fossils at the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Photo credit: E. Wilson

 

(*) – It should be noted that a single fossil mammoth was found at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in 2002, but mammoths are not the primary focus of interpretation and education there.

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Two New National Parks, Two New Stamps

Pullman_Chicago_Clock_Tower
The old Administration Building is the centerpiece of the new Pullman National Monument, and will eventually become the new national park’s visitor center.

 

There’s been some big news in the National Park System in recent weeks with President Obama using the Antiquities Act to add two new national parks to the U.S. National Park System, taking us to 407 total U.S. national parks.    There’s also the usual monthly release of new cancellations for the Parks Passport program, which had two additions this March, one of them for the brand new Park.

The first of the two new national parks is Pullman National Monument in Chicago, located south and west of Chicago’s downtown.   Parkasaurus wrote a short post on the proposal for this national park back in August.   The new National Monument will include the historic administration building and clock tower, which will actually be the only part of the monument owned by the Federal Government.  The administration building was badly damaged by a fire in 1999, and the higher profile of being a national park site should definitely assist fundraising efforts to repair and restore the building.

The rest of the Monument will retain its current ownership.  The architecturally beautiful Hotel Florence and the old factory will remain owned by the State of Illinois as part of Pullman State Historic Site.  The old greenstone church and the numerous worker houses from Pullman’s days as an old-style company town will remained owned by the residents.  Full details are available in the monument’s official proclamation.

This National Monument has clearly been in the works for a long time.   President Obama actually flew in to Chicago to make the announcement on-site, and as part of the ceremonies the National Park Service staff from nearby Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore already had a Junior Ranger program available, as well as a Passport cancellation: Pullman National Monument | Chicago, IL.  The cancellation is available at the Historic Pullman Foundation’s Visitor Center, which is serving as the Park Visitor Center until the Administration Building is complete.

 

The Memorial at Manzanar National Historic Site in California.  Honouliuli National Monument will join Manzanar as one of 5 national parks telling the story of Japanese-American internment during World War II.  Photo from 2009.
The Memorial at the cemetery site in Manzanar National Historic Site in California. Honouliuli National Monument will join Manzanar as one of 5 national parks telling the story of Japanese-American internment during World War II. Photo from 2009.

The second new national park, which was also established under the Antiquities Act on the same day is Honouliuli National Monument, located just outside of urban Honolulu in Hawaii.   At first glance, Honouliuli appears to be the fifth national park telling the story of Japanese internment during World War II.   The first of these is Manzanar National Historic Site in California, which was established as a national park in 1992.  Manzanar was established after a detailed special resource study by the National Park Service on Japanese internment and was selected because it was the first internment camp to be established, the California desert had left Manzanar relatively well-preserved, and its proximity to the main highway between southern California and many of California’s ski resorts insured that it would be relatively accessible to visitation.  The other three are:

The story of Honouliuli will be somewhat different than these other four, however, in two important ways.  First, because of the very large numbers of people of Japanese ancestry in the Territory of Hawaii immediatelly following the attack on Pearl Harbor, internment was carried out much more selectively in Hawaii than the mass-internment which occurred on the American mainland.   In total, only about 2,000 residents of the Territory of Hawaii were interned in World War II, and of those, only about 320 were interned at Honouliuli.   By contrast, Manzanar had more than 10,000 internees at its peak, and Tule Lake had more than 18,000 internees at its peak.  Secondly, Honouliuli actually held more than 4,000 prisoners of war.   In that sense, Honouliuli might also develop closer ties with Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia, the site of the infamous prisoner of war camp operated by the Confederacy.

As of the date of proclamation, however, Honouliuli has become largely overgrown.   Indeed, the site was actually donated to the Federal Government by Monsanto, which had subsequently acquired the site and surrounding lands.   Right now there is no public access to the site.  It will be at least a few months before the site is open to limited visitation, and likely several years before it is fully opened to regular visits.  So no Passport Cancellation, just yet for this site.

The second new Passport Cancellation for March instead goes to the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail with a stamp for its 50th Anniversary 1965-2015.   The historic voting rights march to the State Capitol in Montgomery of course came just days after the Nation was then-marking the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address, and his call to “achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

The addition of Pullman National Monument and Honouliuli National Monument means that there are now 407 national parks in the U.S. National Park System, with another three national parks that were authorized by the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 expected to be established by the end of the year.   Meanwhile, we have recalibrated our calculations of what constitutes a unique Passport cancellation, so the addition of these two new cancellations takes us to a total of  1,889 unique stamps in the Passport Program, with 79 of those being stamps for anniversaries or special events and programs associated with the Parks.

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A Defense Act for New National Parks

Valles Caldera fog_rocks
The Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico is one of six places that could soon be national parks. Photo Credit: Valles Caldera Trust

In the United States, we elect a new Congress every two years.   As of late, Congress has rarely been able to agree on much, which has meant that relatively few laws have been enacted, including laws relating to national parks and other public lands.   In practice, this has meant that every two years, as one Congress is about to leave office and a new Congress prepares to take office the following January, there has been a mad scramble to enact legislation relating to public lands and national parks that hasn’t been able to get voted upon during the previous two years.   That’s because once a new Congress takes office, generally speaking, any bills that have not yet become laws have to start over from square one  – the bill has to be reintroduced, the bills gets referred back to a Commitee for new hearings, and the bills once again has to be passed by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Back in 2010, as Congress was leaving office, it passed the “Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2010” which established three new U.S. National Park Sites, along with numerous other public lands provisions.   Similar action was taken two years before that with another “catchall”, or in the words of Washington, “omnibus” law that authorized the creation of one new U.S. National Park Site, in addition to many other public lands provisions.  Two years ago, however, was the exception – no major public lands legislation made it out of the last Congress, which means there’s now a four-year backlog of public lands legislation waiting for passage.

That wait finally appears to be over, however, with the announcement on Wednesday that the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 would include a large number of public lands provisions.   The Defense Authorization Act is a law that is passed by Congress every year that sets priorities for spending by the Department of Defense, and is generally considered to be “must-pass legislation.”   This particular version of the Act will cover the governments 2015 Fiscal Year, and in addition, appears to be the vehicle for clearing some of the backlog in public lands legislation.

It should be noted that right now this is still “just a bill.”   As this blog post was being written, it had been passed by the House of Representatives, but was still awaiting passage by the Senate, and then, of course, signature by the President.   However, numerous media reports indicate that this bill seems to be very likely to be enacted.  So, with that being said, here’s a quick summary, including authorization for six new national parks:

1) Establishes the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island.   The new park is designated to include the existing Blackstone River State Park, the Old Slater Mill, and several other historic properties.  This park seems to be modeled on the recently-established Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in New Jersey in combing some natural features with historical resources from the Industrial Revolution.

Somewhat unusually, the legislation appears to establish this national park immediately – so this may well become the 402nd national park upon signature of the legislation by President Obama.

2) Authorizes the establishment of Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, Connecticut.   Coltsville would preserve historic resources associated with the company town established by Samuel Colt, the famous firearms manufacturer.

This park would not be established until the National Park Service is able to acquire the land from appropriate donors.

3) Authorizes the establishment of Harriet Tubman National Historical Park on the site of Harriet Tubman’s adult hom in Auburn, New York.

This park would not be established until the National Park Service is able to acquire the land from donors or willing sellers.

4) Authorizes the establishment of Manhattan Project National Historical Park at facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington related to the development of the first atomic bomb.

The legislation gives the National Park Service one year to work out the details with the Department of Energy for how exactly to establish the Park.

5) Transfers Valles Caldera National Preserve from management by an independent trust to the National Park Service and establishes it as a National Park.

This provision appears to take effect immediately, which means that this may be the 403rd national park upon signature of the legislation by President Obama.

6) Establishes the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in an area just north of Las Vegas, Nevada.    This area is known for outstanding Ice Age fossils, including mammoths.

The law appears to establish this as a national park right away, transferring it immediately from the Bureau of Land Management,  so this may well be the 404th national park in just a few days.

It is interesting to note, however, that this site was included in the legislation, whereas the Waco Mammoth National Monument was not.   For many years, the Waco Mammoth Site appeared to be a slam dunk for national park status, until a change in the local Congressional designation appears to have caused the effort to lose steam.   Now that Waco Mammoth has been passed over for inclusion in this legislation, its best route to national park status may be through a Presidential Proclamation under the Antiquities Act.

7) Designates Pershing Park in Washington, DC as the National World War I Memorial, and authorizes its expansion to include additional memorial elements.

Update: The National Park Service has confirmed that Blackstone River Valley NHP, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the World War I Memorial are considered to be immediately established, thus taking the total number of national parks to 405.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated after its original posting to include the item on the National World War I Memorial, which was missed in our original reading of the law, and to also include the Update on the Park counts listed above.

 

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A Pullman National Historical Park in Chicago?

One of my favorite topics is following possible new additions to the U.S. National Park System.

This week there has been quite a bit of news surrounding the possibility of a Pullman National Historical Park due to a visit by National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to a town hall meeting in Chicago on the topic.

The U.S. National Park System includes many historic places, but we don’t often think of our industrial heritage as being among those places.  The Pullman District of Chicago was a company town – founded by George Pullman’s Pullman Palace Car Company.  Pullman Cars are, of course, nearly synonomous with “railroad sleeping cars,” in the way that a hundred years later “Xerox” would become nearly synonomus with “photocopu.”  The town of Pullman was also apparently the first industrial company town – which as near as I can tell is a distinction that excludes coal mining company towns, like Blue Heron in the Big South Fork NRRA.

The Pullman Palace Car Company was founded by George Pullman in 1867, shortly after the end of the civil war.  The business model of the company was to lease its rail cars to the railroads, and to provide the staffing for those cars at the same time – with many of those employees being recently-freed former slaves.   The town of Pullman, which was then separate from Chicago, was founded in 1880 out of a combination of the Pullman Palace Car Company’s need for a new factory, and George Pullman’s belief that the industrialists of the day should use their wealth for the betterment of their workers.

Nowadays, the idea of a “company town” seems like an almost completely foreign concept – well at odds with our modern conception of freedom.   In many ways, Pullman was a remarkable feat of central planning – with the size of your house determined by your rank within the company, and a prohibition on saloons within the town.

Now, industrial heritage isn’t always the first thing that we think of when we think of national parks – but there are a few examples.   Lowell National Historical Park is generally the prototypical example, where the old cotton mills are now a successful national park and tourist destination in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Other examples of industrial heritage-themed national parks include Thomas Edison’s laboratories at Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, and the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

Along those lines,  its interesting to note that even Jon Jarvis brings up the fact that adding the Pullman site to the Passport to Your National Parks Program as one of the attractions for designating it as a national park.   There’s no question that designation as a national park immediately adds a site to an awful lot of peoples’ bucket lists.

With that being said, the national significance of the Pullman District seems difficult to question.   The area was the site of a major strike, and so was instrumental in the development of labor unions in this country.  Moreover, the Pullman Company was also the first company to develop a predominantly African-American labor union.  With 90% of the historic buildings still in tact, there seems to be a strong case that the Pullman District would be an ideal place to tell the story of how the Industrial Revolution in this country transitioned into the pre-Great War Gilded Age.

If you want the full details, you can read more about the National Park Service’s initial assessment of the Pullman District as a candidate national park by checking out their Reconnaisance Survey.  As the survey makes clear, however, ideally the Reconnaisance Survey would just be a first step on the way to a complete Special Resource Study of the Pullman District that would fully evaluate the area against the four established criteria for establishing a new national park.   Although several recent national parks have been designated by the President under the Antiquities Act without waiting for the Special Resource Study to be completed (let alone waiting for Congress to take action by designating the park and also establishing a budget for the new park), I generally lean towards wanting to let the established process play out and letting the career professionals in the National Park Service do their job.   By all accounts, the Pullman District isn’t in immediate danger of decay or development, so it seems that there is plenty of time to allow that to happen.

On the other hand, the initial assessment seems to be pretty clearly pointing towards the Pullman District being a worthy addition to the U.S. National Park System.  Indeed, it seems kind of amazing that a storied city like Chicago does not yet have a single national park site of any kind within its boundaries.   Given those considerations, and reading between the lines of Director Jon Jarvis’ comments, it seems that the Pullman District will be taking its place in the U.S. National Park System sooner rather than later – my guess would be almost certainly before another famous Chicagoan moves on to other things in 2017.

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