Category Archives: Counting the Parks

A New National Commemorative Site – Wait, What’s a National Commemorative Site Anyways?

The Quindaro archeological site is about the become the third National Commemorative Site. Photo from 2018 by America Beautiful Patton [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Since writing my first post on all the coming changes to the National Park System, the bill formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act has been given a new name!   After being passed by the Senate, the House proposed (and the Senate accepted) changing the name of this bill to the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.  John Dingell, Jr. passed away earlier this year on February 7th.  He is notable as the longest-serving member of the US House of Representatives ever, a 59 year tenure that included 14 years as the top ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

By any other name, however, this bill contains a unique provision with the addition of the Quindaro Town Site in Kansas as third national commemorative site that will operate in partnership with the National Park Service.   What is a national commemorative site, you may ask?   Well,  Congress has actually never answered that question definitively by defining the term national commemorative site in law.  Indeed, until just one year ago, there was only a single national commemorative site in the nation.  With the creation of the third  national commemorative site, however, we can start to draw some conclusions.

national commemorative site appears to be an honorary designation that recognizes the historical significance of a place,  without elevating it to the status of a full-fledged unit of the National Park System.  In particular, this means that there is no National Park Service management of a national commemorative site, and only minimal federal funding for a national commemorative site, although the National Park Service does become authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with local authorities to improve interpretation at these sites.

A good way to think about these national commemorative sites is to look at where they logically fit into the heirarchy of historic designations in the United States:

  • The National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966 and currently includes more than 90,000 listings, making it the broadest designation.  Listing on the National R
  • national historic landmark must meet a higher standard of national significance than a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.   National historic landmarks have been designated since 1935, and there are currently more than 2,500 such landmarks.   All national historic landmarks are automatically listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • National historic sites all must meet the criteria for being a National historic landmark, and most must also meet the National Park Service’s criteria for administration as a unit of the National Park System.  Upon passage of the Dingell Act, there will be 76 national historic sites* in the National Park System, 54 national historic parks in the National Park System, another 9 National Historic States that are affiliated areas of the National Park System, and 1 national historic site operated by the National Forest Service.

The national commemorative site designation seems to fit right between national historic landmark and national historic site in terms of level of recognition and Federal involvement.  It definitely provides a bit more recognition and Federal involvement than designation as a national historic landmark.  However, the relative obscurity of the national commemorative site designation and the very minimal Federal involvement places it well below the designation of a national historic site. 

The first national commemorative site was designated in 1998.   The Charleston Public School Complex in Charleston, AR received this unique designation in recognition of the fact that it was the first school system in the South to fully desegregate following the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954.  Most notably, the process of desegregation at Charleston occurred entirely peacefully – which is surely as worthy of recognition as the places where violence occurred.

This designation remained one-of-a-kind for nearly 20 years until Congress revived it again by designating the Landmark for Peace Memorial in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana as the Kennedy-King National Commemorative Site in April 2018.  The Memorial is close by the site where then-Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy was informed that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated earlier that day, and proceeded to deliver extemporaneous remarks on racial reconciliation – rather than his planned stump speech.   That speech is credited with playing a role in Indianapolis not seeing any race riots that evening, unlike so many other US cities.  Its interesting that once again, the national commemorative site was used almost for what didn’t happen, or at the very least, what happened peacefully.

Once the Dingell Act is signed into law, the Quindaro Townsite archeological site in Kansas City, Kansas will become the third national commemorative site.  Quindaro was a town founded by abolitionists in 1856 at the height of the “Bleeding Kansas” years.  They were seeking to ensure that Kansas would eventually be admitted to the Union as a “Free State” where slavery was prohibited.  The town became a stop on the Underground Railroad, and also played an important role in Reconstruction by setting up schools and other educational opportunities for freed slaves.   The location of the townsite was eventually lost to history before being rediscovered in the 1980’s.  This national recognition is the latest in a series of attempts to draw attention to the story of Quindaro and the role that it played in both the Underground Railroad and in Reconstruction.  This post by Kansas Travel blogger Keith Stokes has detailed information on how to visit the Quindaro Townsite.

This statue of controversial abolitionist John Brown was erected in 1911 at the site of Western University, which was founded by the residents of Quindaro. Photo from 2007 by Reddi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
* – For simplicity, I included two sites with slightly different designations in these totals: (1) St Croix International Historic Site, an early French settlement on the border of Maine and New Brunswick; and (2) Aleutian World War II National Historic Area, an affiliated area of the National Park System on the island of Amaknak in Alaska.

 For the curious, Grey Towers National Historic Site in Pennsylvania is the former home of Gifford Pinchot, founder of the US Forest Service, and remains a US Forest Service site rather than a National Park Service site. 

This article is Part II of a three-part series on all the changes occurring to the National Park System in early 2019.  Click here to read Part I.

 

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Breaking Down the Recent and Coming Changes to the National Park System

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has officially become the 61st (or 62nd, depending on how you count) unit of the National Park System with a “national park” designation. Photo Credit: Flickr user: Paul J Everett in 2008 https://www.flickr.com/people/paul_everett82/ [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Calendar year 2018 ended on a low note for the National Park System in the midst of a partial Federal government shutdown.   With the budget negotiations to keep the Federal government open consuming almost all of Congress’ attention in November, December, and January, that left a lot of unfinished business that Congress was unable to get to before their 115th Session ended in early January.   Fortunately, the newly elected Congress began the 116th Session by immediately taking up many of the pending public lands provisions that had received Committee hearings and debates over the previous two years in the 115th Session and sent many of them to the President’s desk for signature.   Here’s a recap of what you need to know:

I’ll begin with the news that Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is now Indiana Dunes National Park.  On Friday February 15, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019.  This is the law the prevented another government shutdown from beginning on February 16 by providing budget authority to the National Park Service (and all other Federal agencies that weren’t previously funded) through September 30, 2019.  Normally, any law with the words “Appropriations Act” in the title is supposed to be limited to just providing funding – and is not supposed to be making other changes to permanent law.   However, advocates for redesignating Indiana Dunes were so persistent that they managed to get their provision tucked into this must-pass legislation keeping the government open so as to ensure that it was enacted into law.  Thus, congratulations to Indiana Dunes on being redesignated as the 61st “national park” of the United States (or alternatively, the 62nd depending if you count “Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts” as a “national park.”)

The USS Arizona Memorial and the other Pearl Harbor Sites in World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument are being redesignated as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Photo Credit: Stan Shebs in 2002 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Most other proposed bills relating to the National Park System aren’t so lucky to be tucked into must-pass legislation.  Instead, it has now become common practice that whenever a two-year session of Congress begins wrapping up, a giant “omnibus” piece of legislation is crafted to bring together a large number of public lands provisions that had been debated in Committee over the previous two years.  The idea behind the “omnibus” is to include something for almost everyone in Congress, and thus ensure its passage.   So it was little surprise when the “omnibus” public lands bill for the 115th Congress (2017-2018), the Natural Resources Management Act, passed the Senate earlier this week by a vote of 92-8.   The House of Representatives is almost certain to pass this legislation sometime next week.  Its possible that they may even pass it without amendment, which would send the legislation directly to President Trump for his signature to be enacted into law.

Presuming that happens,  here is what you need to know about how the Natural Resources Management Act will impact the National Park System.

First up, the existing World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is being broken up, creating a new addition to the National Park System.   The “Valor” National Monument was always an odd creation from the moment that President George W. Bush created it in 2008 by combining the existing then-designated USS Arizona National Memorial with several other sites around Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the site of the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California, and three World War II sites in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.   The USS Arizona Memorial and the other sites around Pearl Harbor are redesignated as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.   The Tule Lake Unit of the Monument is redesignated as the Tule Lake National Monument, and this will effectively become the 419th Unit of the National Park System upon passage of the legislation (unless something very surprising happens between now and then).  The Alaskan areas of the monument are redesignated as Aleutian Islands World War II National Monument, and they will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and so will not be part of the National Park System.

The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home in Jackson, Mississippi could soon become the newest addition to the National Park System. Photo Credit: Jud McCranie in 2018 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Next, the bill authorizes the establishment of two new units of the National Park System:

  • Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi
  • Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Kentucky

Medgar and Myrlie Evers were famed civil rights activists, and this national monument will protect the home where they lived in Jackson, Mississippi from 1956 up until Medgar’s asssasination in 1963.  Mill Springs Battlefield is located near the town of Nancy in south-central Kentucky.  In January 1862, it was the site of the first significant Union victory during the Civil War.

Neither site will become the 420th unit of the National Park System just yet.  Instead, both sites will become full-fledged national parks upon the acquisition of land for the sites by the National Park Service.  In that sense, they join a pool of candidates that for that distinction that includes:

  • Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park – an early French settlement in Missouri that was first authorized last year (and whose authorized boundaries will be modified in this legislation in order to help move the process along);
  • Coltsville National Historical Park – the 19th-century industrial village centered on arms-making in Hartford, Connecticut that was authorized back in 2014;
  • the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial – first authorized in 1999, the memorial commission is currently hoping to complete construction on a site near the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC by May 8, 2020;
  • the Adams Memorial – first authorized in 2001 at the height of the popularity of David McCullough’s Pulitzer-Prize winning biography of family patriarch John Adams, the effort to memorialize the family has struggled with fundraising, but this legislation extends the authorization for the memorial until 2025 and establishes a Commission to try and jump-start these efforts;
  • Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site – first authorized in 2002, the National Park Service and the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation were not able to agree on a selling price for the site in Dixon, Illinois, and so land acquisition won’t happen until that changes.

So, if you’re keeping track at home, it is likely that the 420th unit of the National Park System will be one of Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, or Coltsville National Historical Park – but there is always the possibility that the President could declare a brand-new national monument under the Antiquities Act even before land acquisition for any one of those authorized (or soon-to-be authorized) parks happens.

Ocmulgee National Monument will soon be getting the much-more descriptive name of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Photo from 2015.

The Natural Resources Management Act,once enacted will also make a large number of name changes to the National Park System:

  • Camp Nelson National Monument in central Kentucky, designated just a couple months ago to preserve a training ground for African-American Union soldiers during the Civil War gets renamed as Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument;
  • Fort Sumter National Monument, where the Civil War began in Charleston, South Carolina, gets renamed as Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park;
  • Golden Spike National Historic Site in northern Utah, where the first trans-continental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 gets renamed Golden Spike National Historical Park, just in time for their 150th Anniversary;
  • Honouliuli National Monument, the Japanese prisoner of war camp that was also used for internement of Japanese-American civilians on Oahu, in Hawaii, gets renamed Honouliuli National Historic Site;
  • Ocmulgee National Monument, which preserves paleo-Indian archeological sites that are up to 17,000 years old, pre-Columbian American Indian mounds that are about 1,000 years old, and the historic culture of the Creek Nation in the city of Macon in central Georgia gets renamed as Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park;
  • Reconstruction Era National Monument in and around Beaufort, South Carolina, where the process of building a new life for recently-emancipated African-Americans began, gets renamed Reconstruction Era National Historical Park;
  • Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the estate of the famed sculptor Agustus Saint-Gaudens in central New Hampshire gets renamed as Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.

All of those name changes would take place immediately upon enactment.

With that, those are all the changes to the units of the National Park System in the proposed legislation as it passed the Senate.  It remains possible that the House of Representatives may add a few changes of their own as they consider the legislation this week.   In my next post, I will put together a summary of all the changes to the National Park System outside the those designated as official units.

This is Part I of a three-part series on changes to the National Park System in early 2019.  Check out Part II and Part III.

Updated on February 18, 2019 to correct errors and clarify the order of which Parks will become the 419th and 420th Units of the National Park System.

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Welcome Belmont-Paul National Monument to the National Park System

The inside of the stained glass window at the new Belmont-Paul National Monument, located at 144 Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC
The inside of the stained glass window at the new Belmont-Paul National Monument, located at 144 Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC

On April 12, 2016, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC.  The Sewall-Belmont House has actually received funding and technical assistance from the National Park Service dating back to 1974, making it an Affiliated Area of the National Park System.  However, since it has remained in private hands, it has not officially been counted as a Unit of the National Park System until now.

The two-part name continues a recent trend in compound names for new national parks. This includes President Obama designating the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument (since redesignated in the National Park System as a National Historical Park) in Maryland in 2013; President Bush designating the World War II / Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Hawaii, California, and Alaska in 2008; and Congress designating the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California in 2000.  In this case, the compound name alludes to the fact that President Obama issued the proclamation for this national monument on “Equal Pay Day 2016” – the day intended to highlight that by some calculations,  American women in 2016 will earn, on average, 21% less than men. This calculation, however, is disputed by many economists, who point out that much of the difference is explainable by factors other than discrimination.

In picking this compound name, President Obama chose to eschew going with the “law firm” name for this new park of Sewall-Belmont-Paul National Monument.  Instead, the name Sewall was dropped in favor of adding the name of famous feminist and suffragette Alice Paul.

The name Sewall comes from Robert Sewall, who had the house constructed on Capitol Hill around 1800. Historical records indicate that the Sewall family only actually occupied the house for a short time, instead renting out to numerous officials and dignitaries.  Among its many residents were Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, who arranged the financing for the Louisiana Purchase and the subsequent Lewis & Clark expedition.   Gallatin’s home estate in western Pennsylvania is now Friendship Hill National Historic Site.

Nonetheless, the house over time came to be known as the Sewall House. Although it cannot be verified, tradition has long held that during the British attack on Washington in the War of 1812 (now commemorated by the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail) shots were fired at the British troops from the Sewall House, leading the British to set the Sewall House on fire.  If this indeed happened, it was noteworthy as while the British burned the government buildings in Washington, they actually took care to spare civilian buildings, which they viewed as belonging to once and future British subjects.

The name Belmont refers to Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, the wealthy philanthropist and feminist who bankrolled the National Woman’s Party’s acquisition of the Sewall House.  Alva Erskine Smith was born into a wealthy family in Mobile, Alabama and her first husband was William Kissam Vanderbilt; grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the brother of Frederick William Vanderbilt.  (Frederick William was responsible for building the Hyde Park, New York estate that is now Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.) Alva divorced her husband in March 1895, and then married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont less than one year later in January 1896.  (Oliver Belmont was the grandnephew of the famous Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, and commemorated by the Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.)  Oliver Belmont’s sudden death in 1908 seems to have directly lead to Alva Belmont actively devoting herself to the cause of women’s suffrage.

The name Paul, of course, refers to Alice Paul.  Alice Paul has rightly earned fame as the dynamo of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.   She recognized that the cause of women’s suffrage, which had languished for more than 100 years in this country could be brought to fruition through a relentless campaign of agitation and political action.   She also recognized that she was just the person with the fame and charisma to rally a movement to do just that.

Frustrated by the pace of change, in 1913 Alice Paul, along with another woman, Lucy Burns, separated from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (N.A.W.S.A.) to form their own organization solely dedicated to a Constitutional Amendment for women’s suffrage.  Shortly thereafter, Alva Belmont merged her own women’s suffrage organization into the new group, and in 1916 the new group was renamed as the National Woman’s Party.   Just four years later the National Woman’s Party would secure its greatest success with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Around one decade later, when the National Woman’s Party needed a new headquarters, Alva Belmont was able to purchase the old Sewall House on Capitol Hill for that purpose.  Located just a few blocks from the Capitol, it was a prime location from which the National Woman’s Party could engage in their principal work of lobbying Congress to advance their cause of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.  At the time, the National Woman’s Party officially renamed the Sewall House as the “Alva Belmont House,” but it appears that the long-standing Sewall House name was not so easily dropped out of common use, and the name Sewall-Belmont House came into popular usage instead.  Now, of course, the property will become known as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, and I suspect that this name change will be a bit more successful than the last, what with the branding power of the National Park Service behind it.

The Toothy T-Rex, Age 4, in Seneca Falls, New York, just across the street from Women's Rights National Historical Park
The Toothy T-Rex, Age 4, in Seneca Falls, New York, just across the street from Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Many historians date the beginning of the organized women’s suffrage movement in the United States to the Seneca Falls Convention of July 1848.  Looking at the history of the early women’s suffrage movement, its immediately apparent how women’s suffrage was a natural outgrowth of the anti-slavery abolition movement and also out of the religious traditions of the Quakers.   The Quakers have long been an anti-clerical movement within Christianity, originating in 17th Century England.  The Quakers believed in the “priesthood of all believers,” and did not typically have a formal religious hierarchy.   By the 19th Century, these beliefs were evolving within Quakerism to include a more radical equality of all people, including men and women.  Not surprisingly, many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement were shaped in their beliefs by the Quakers.

Today, the National Park Service’s Women’s Rights National Historical Park includes the site of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel where the Convention was held, as well as the homes of the Hunt Family and the M’Clintock Family, who were both Quakers, and the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was not.  Word of the Convention was initially spread both among progressive Quakers, and among the networks of activists in the abolition of slavery movement.  These networks included Frederick Douglass from nearby Rochester, New York, who was a friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and who published word of the Convention in his North Star newspaper.

The Convention would last for two days, women-only on the first day, with men joining on the second day.  At the end of the second day, the Convention adopted the Declaration of Sentiments, which became the seminal document of the women’s rights movement.  It is notable for its comprehensive assessment of the inequalities between women and men of that day, and is now engraved in stone at Women’s Rights NHP in Seneca Falls.  Although the first goal of the women’s rights movement would become the right to vote, from the beginning there was a broader articulation of civil and social rights – such as the right to own property, the right to higher education, and the right to become a “teacher of theology, medicine, or law.”  All of these things, however, would take many years.

The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments is now engraved in stone at Women's Rights National Historical Park
The Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments is now engraved in bronze at Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Following Seneca Falls, the women’s rights movement would receive a further boost in 1851 when Susan B. Anthony was introduced to Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Since Susan B. Anthony would never marry, the absence of family commitments allowed her to spend more time travelling and organizing on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement.  Anthony would become perhaps the most-famous women’s rights campaigner in the country, and the women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution would become informally known as the “Anthony Amendment.”  With the addition of Belmont-Paul National Monument to the National Park System, Susan B. Anthony now clearly holds the distinction of being the most-significant figure in the women’s rights movements who is not yet commemorated in the National Park System.

Despite Anthony joining the cause, however, success would not be the reward for this first generation of activists.  Following the Civil War, the women’s rights movement would split over the question of supporting the 15th Amendment, which gave the right to vote to all men, including African-Americans, but not to women.  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton ultimately decided to oppose the 15th Amendment on those grounds, leading to a split and the forming of rival organizations.  That lack of unity may not have been decisive in the failure to secure women’s suffrage in the 19th Century, but it certainly didn’t help.

The leaders of the movement would continue actively working for the women’s right to vote for some 50 more years, all of them into old age, but to no avail.  Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphia Quaker who played a leading role in drafting the Declaration of Sentiments would die in 1880 at the age of 87. In 1887, a women’s suffrage amendment would finally receive a vote in the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by a vote of 16 in favor to 34 against.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton would die in 1902 at the age of 86. Susan B. Anthony would die in 1906, also at the age of 86.

Not surprisingly, historians cite the period of 1896 to 1910 as the nadir of the women’s suffrage movement as the heroes of the Seneca Falls generation began to fade away and it was unclear as to whom would succeed them.  The organizations they founded, like the N.A.W.S.A. would continue, but they were under-funded and the cause of a Federal Constitutional Amendment had largely been abandoned in favor of pursuing women’s suffrage on a state-by-state basis.

A bust of Alice Paul outside one of the rooms she worked in at the Belmont-Paul National Monument.
A bust of Alice Paul outside one of the rooms she worked in at the Belmont-Paul National Monument.

Enter a young Quaker woman from Mount Laurel, New Jersey named Alice Paul.  The year after Susan B. Anthony’s death, in 1907, Alice Paul would set out to Great Britain at the age of 21 to continue her education with postgraduate study at the London School of Economics and to join the women’s suffrage movement in that country.   It was in Britain that Paul would have what she called her “conversion experience” and where she would join the militant wing the British women’s suffrage movement. It was in Britain that she met famed British activist Emmeline Pankhurst, and is also where she met fellow American Lucy Burns, which whom she would form a life-long partnership.  It was also in Britain that she would be convinced that women’s suffrage would not be achieved by persuasion alone, but that the cause would require more forceful demonstrations.

Indeed, she would live this out in Britain, ultimately being arrested several times for civil disobedience.  Once arrested, a frequent tactic of the suffragists, Paul included, was to begin a hunger strike, in hopes of securing a shortened sentence.  However, after a particularly boisterous protest in late 1909, one in which Paul and other suffragists smashed windows, the stakes were significantly raised. In this instance, the British authorities responded to the hunger strike by holding down Paul and force-feeding her through a tube.  The experience was so traumatic for Paul that she literally had to be carried out of the jail once her sentence was over.

A few months later, in January 1910, Alice Paul returned to the United States after three years in Britain.  By this time Alice Paul was a suffragist celebrity in the United States.  Moreover, she returned to the United States convinced that the goal of the women’s suffrage movement must be a Federal Constitutional Amendment, and that passage of this Amendment would require employing the same tactics of the militant suffragists on the other side of the Atlantic.  By the end of 1912, she had completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and had secured authorization from the N.A.W.S.A. to set up shop in Washington to begin lobbying activities for a Constitutional Amendment.

Historic women's suffrage banner, from the National Women's Party vollection.
Historic women’s suffrage banner, from the National Women’s Party collection.

Once she arrived in Washington, she immediately set to work organizing confrontations in support of women’s suffrage and re-energizing the women’s movement through her charisma and her flair for the dramatic. Some of the brilliant protests she organized included a “March on the White House” the night before Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural parade in 1913, and the staging of “Silent Sentinels” in continuous peaceful protest outside the Wilson White House. The Sentinels would maintain a small fire in an urn, in which they would burn copies of any Woodrow Wilson speech referring to “freedom” or to “liberty.”  These attempts to embarrass Woodrow Wilson were in keeping with Alice Paul’s grand strategy that all Democrats must be held responsible for the failure to pass the women’s suffrage amendment, since they were the party in power at the time.   Alice Paul’s application of this opposition to all Democrats in the 1914 elections led to her break with the avowedly non-partisan N.A.W.S.A. and the founding of the National Woman’s Party, in 1916.

Now in charge of her own organization, Alice Paul only accelerated her campaign from there, leading to more civil disobedience and more arrests, both by herself and by the many supporters she inspired to join her.  At one point, after many National Woman’s Party members were arrested after another protest, she specifically sought out arrest to join them, and was given a seven month sentence.  In protest of the terrible conditions, she once again began a hunger strike, and this time she was force-fed raw eggs through a tube before ultimately being released.

However, soon the tide turned. In April 1917, the United States entered the First World War.  The next January, Woodrow Wilson called for passage of the women’s suffrage amendment, quote, “as an urgent war measure.”  The House of Representatives passed the amendment shortly thereafter. The Senate would finally follow suit more than one year later, passing it in June 1919 on its third attempt,  sending the amendment to the States for ratification. The amendment was added to the Constitution upon ratification by Tennessee in August 1920, just in time for women across the U.S. to vote in the 1920 Presidential election. After 70 years of struggle, the women’s rights movement had achieved its most-important victory, and its hard to describe the role of Alice Paul as being anything less than central to this achievement.

With the 19th Amendment added to the Constitution, the question then became “what next?”  In this interview, Alice Paul relates that her National Woman’s Party was heavily in debt from the long campaign.  In the months immediately following ratification, the National Woman’s Party would basically shut down, the headquarters would be closed, and all efforts would be devoted to fundraising in order to pay off the debts.  Meanwhile, the N.A.W.S.A., having accomplished its mission, would reorganize itself into the League of Women Voters, which we know to this day.

Joan of Arc was a natural source of inspiration for Alice Paul and the National Women's Party.
Joan of Arc was a natural source of inspiration for Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party.

Reading about Alice Paul, however, you kind of get the sense that she would never really be happy unless she was engaged in campaign to make a difference. Having spent more than a decade of her life agitating for women’s suffrage, its hard to envision her retiring to a quiet life somewhere. So its not at all surprising that in 1921, when Alice Paul convened a meeting of National Woman’s Party to decide whether the continue, the decision was a resounding “yes.”  Just as when Alice Paul first returned to the United States from Great Britain with the conviction that the top priority should be a Federal Constitutional Amendment, the new goal would also be a Constitutional Amendment.  Two years later, in 1923, Alice Paul and others would return to Seneca Falls for the 75th Anniversary of the Declaration of Sentiments and to propose a new amendment to the Constitution establishing full equality for women.  After some revisions in future years, it would become what we know today as the Equal Rights Amendment.   The simple text of Article 1 of the ERA read:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The campaign to secure passage of the ERA would consume the rest of Alice Paul’s life.

In 1972, Congress finally passed the ERA and submitted it to the States, with a deadline of 6 years for ratification.  Alice Paul would die in 1977 at the age of 92 with the ERA just two States shy of ratification. Unfortunately for the ERA, no further ratifications would come by the 1979 deadline, and instead, some States would actually rescind their ratification.  There was a half-hearted attempt to try and extend the deadline for three years to 1982, but by then it was clear that the momentum for the ERA, and indeed the dynamo behind so much of the women’s movement, had been lost. The extended deadline also expired with no additional ratifications, and the ERA was defeated.

Just as the 15th Amendment had split the women’s movement in 1869 by extending the right to vote to African-Americans, but not to women, the ERA, which was modeled on the language of the 15th Amendment, also split the women’s movement.  From the beginning in the 1920’s, many in the women’s movement expressed concern that the ERA would take away special privileges enjoyed by women, such as special protection under labor laws and laws regarding alimony. In later years, other objections would be raised including that some of the consequences of the ERA would include taking away the exemption of women from the draft, prohibiting maternity leave policies, and ending “dependent wife benefits” under Social Security.   Another objection  raised in the 1970’s was that an ERA prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex would also require the government to extend recognition of marriage to same-sex couples, since marriage was defined at that time based on opposite-sex couples.  Ironically, the Belmont-Paul National Monument in Alice Paul’s honor was established less than a year after the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution required that anyways – even without passage of the ERA.

It is unfortunate, but understandable, that the lasting legacy to Alice Paul in the National Park System will be associated with the unsuccessful ERA effort, rather than her brilliant campaign and greatest triumph.  After passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the rebooted National Women’s Party found a new headquarters in 1921 in a building called the Old Brick Capitol.  When that building was ultimately condemned in 1929 under eminent domain to make way for the Supreme Court Building, Alice Paul’s old friend, Alva Belmont, stepped in with the funding to secure the old Sewall House as a new headquarters.  Alice Paul would lead the campaign for the ERA from this building for nearly 50 years.

The National Woman’s Party would continue to lobby for the ERA for more than a decade.  In 1997, the National Woman’s Party decided to cease its lobbying efforts and to focus on preservation and education.  Even though the building will now be managed as part of the National Park System, the National Woman’s Party will remain an active partner at the site, including managing their extensive collection of historical artifacts associated with the campaign for the ERA, the life of Alice Paul, and the women’s suffrage movement.  With its new designation as part of the National Park System, many more visitors to Washington, DC will encounter the story of this extraordinary leader, and will remember the legacy of how through sheer determination and charismatic inspiration Alice Paul changed the course of history.

This historic banner from the National Women's Party collection is a fitting motto for the way Alice Paul lived her life.
This historic banner from the National Women’s Party collection is a fitting motto for the way Alice Paul lived her life.

 

 

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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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When is a National Memorial a National Park?

There are three national memorials in this photograph from 2010 - but what makes a national memorial a national park?
There are three national memorials in this photograph from 2010 – but what makes a national memorial a national park?

Writing about the World War II Memorial has gotten me to thinking about what makes a national memorialnational park.   According to the National Park Service, there are 30 national memorials in the U.S. National Park System.  However, as with so many things in counting national parks it isn’t quite as simple as that.  Under Federal Law, only Congress has the exclusive right to designate a national memorial.  This means that there is no provision like an Antiquities Act for designating national memorials the way that there is for the President to designate national monuments.  Moreoversimilar to national monuments, not all national memorials have been assiged to the National Park Service for inclusion in the U.S. National Park System – in fact with there being 64 national memorials that I have been able to identify, the National Park Service is only directly responsible for around half of them.

NPS National Memorials in Washington, DC

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial during peak bloom of the cherry blossoms. Photo from 2011.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial during peak bloom of the cherry blossoms. Photo from 2011.

Let’s take a closer look at national memorials by starting with the 12 national memorials listed by the National Park Service that are in or around the nation’s capital in  Washington, D.C.:

  1. Arlington House, the Robert E. Memorial (the issue of a national memorial dedicated to Lee is a topic for another post on another day)
  2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  3. (*)Korean War Veterans Memorial
  4. Lincoln Memorial
  5. (*)Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac
  6. (*)Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  7. (*)Theodore Roosevelt Island
  8. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (I’ve never been able to determine why Jefferson gets his first name in the name of the memorial, but Lincoln and Washington do not!)
  9. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  10. Washington Monument
  11. (*)World War I Memorial (new! – to be located in Pershing Park near the White House)
  12. World War II Memorial

There are also two more memorials in the above category that are planned for future construction.  The Eisenhower Memorial(*) has recently received final design approval, and is hoping to complete construction in the next few years.  The Adams Memorial(*), a tribute to the remarkable family that produced the second and sixth Presidents of the United States, is still in the design and fundraising stages.

So overall, this first set of memorials are dedicated either to “great Americans” – primarily former Presidents of the United States, or else to those who served, and in many cases, gave their lives, in one of the major wars of the 20th Century.

However, there is still the small matter of those asterisks above.  What becomes a little tricky here is that five of these twelve memorials (as well as the two under development) have actually not been specifically designated as national memorials by Congress  – as national memorial is a rather specific legal honor and title that can only be conferred by Congress.  However, each of those memorials is of a sufficent size and distinction that the National Park Service has determined that each of them should count separately as individual national parks in the National Park System.  As such, in listing all of the different units in the National Park System, the National Park Service goes ahead and lists all of the above as national memorials.

Given that recognition, its hard to be pedantic about the the specific legal distinctions.  Take for example, the case of the World War II Memorial.  The fundraising drivde  by the American Battle Monuments Commission to build this memorial was explicitly called the National World War II Memorial Cammpaign.  The non-profit partners of the memorial calls themselves “Friends of the National World War II Memorial.”  Regardless of the technical legal status, almost all Americans, including, I would imagine, almost all Members of Congress, consider it to be the National World War II Memorial.  So in the interests of simplicity and clarity, I’m going to conside each of the above memorials to also be a national memorial, if for no other reason than by popular acclamation and by the de facto designation as such by the National Park Service.

So those twelve constitue the first entries on the list of national memorials.   Let’s look at a few more:

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The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence in Constitution Gardens features the signatures of each of the signers. This photo, from 2011, is of the signatures from the famed Massachusetts delegation.

In addition to these twelve, seven other national memorials in the greater Washington, DC area are included as part of other, larger units of the U.S. National Park System:

  1.  the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence can be found on an island in the lagoon of Constitution Gardens in downtown Washington, DC;
  2. the Lincoln Museum in Ford’s Theatre is considered to be a national memorial, and is part of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, DC;
  3. the House Where Lincoln Died, also known as Petersen House, is also considered to be a national memorial, and is also a part of Ford’s Theatre NHS in downtown Washington, DC;
  4. the United States Marine Corps War Memorial is more popularly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, and is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington, Virginia;
  5. the United States Navy Memorial is part of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in downtown Washington, DC;
  6. the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial is also part of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in downtown Washington, DC – but it is one of only two of these sseven sites without its own Passport stamp;
  7. the Seabees of the United States Navy Memorial is located along the George Washington Memorial Parkway at the entrance to Arlington Cemetery, and also does not have its own Passport stamp.

This second group is a bit more of a mixed bag than the first group.   The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence is straight-forward enough, and in keeping with the theme from the first group of honoring the “Founding Fathers” of the Nation.  The Nation’s desire to honor the Preisdent who saved the Union is evident by there being two designations relating to Abraham Lincoln, in addition, of course, to the Lincoln Memorial itself in the first group.  Four others are dedicated to specific groups of people who served, or more accurately, to specific types of service.  The mixed-nature of this list is perhaps most-highlighted by the absence of the Air Force Memorial from this list, which has apparently not been formally designated a national memorial, and resides on Department of Defense land at the Pentagon, and so is outside the National Park System as well.   With neither official recognition by Congress as a national memorial, nor listing by the National Park Service as a national memorial, there just was no way to include it on the list.  Even though, with all due respect to the service of the many U.S. Navy Seabees over the years, it seems inconsistent to have the Seabees Memorial on this list, but not the Air Force Memorial.

Indeed, there are many other memorials in the National Park System which are also not on that list, and in some cases, it almost seems to be simply a paperwork oversight that they have not been designated as national memorials, while many similar memorials have been.   For more on them, check out Sidebar#1.

NPS National Memorials Outside Washington

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is better known as the St. Louis Arch, and is one of several national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks. Photo from 2004.
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is better known as the St. Louis Arch, and is one of several national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks. Photo from 2004.

Outside of Washington, DC, however, the National Park System includes 18 other national memorials that are also individual national parks.  All of these were designated by Congress as a national memorial in their very name, however, so their inclusion on the list is straightforward.  The 18 are:

  1. Arkansas Post National Memorial – marks the first permanent European settlement in the Mississippi River Valley;
  2. Chamizal National Memorial – marks the peaceful resolution of a border dispute with Mexico in El Paso, Texas;
  3. Coronado National Memorial – marks the explorations of Spanish conquistador Francisco Coronado, at the approximate site where he entered the present-day United States on Arizona’s border with Mexico;
  4. DeSoto National Memorial – marks the explorations of Hernando de Soto, at the approximate site where he entered the present-day United States, just south of Tampa, Florida;
  5. Federal Hall National Memorial – marks the Nation’s first capitol building in New York City;
  6. Flight 93 National Memorial – a site that needs no introduction, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania;
  7. Fort Caroline National Memorial – marks the short-lived attempt by the French to colonize north Florida;
  8. General Grant National Memorial – the most famous tomb in America is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant and his wife;
  9. Hamilton Grange National Memorial – marks the home of the Founding Father (for now) on the ten-dollar bill in New York City;
  10. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial – you know this site as the St. Louis Arch, commemorating everyone and everything involved in America’s westward expansion;
  11. Johnstown Flood National Memorial – marks the site of the tragic disaster that killed more than 2,000 people in central Pennsylvania in 1889;
  12. Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – marks the place where Abraham Lincoln spent a few of his childhood years in southern Indiana;
  13. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – the famous faces in one of America’s most-famous places;
  14. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial – commemorates Commodore Oliver Perry’s famous victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, marked in the resort town of Put-in-Bay, Ohio;
  15. Port Chicago National Memorial – marks the site of a tragic explosion on the American Home Front in the East Bay of San Francisco during the Second World War, in which the victims were largely African-Americans;
  16. Roger Williams National Memorial – commemorates the pioneer for religious liberty who founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1636;
  17. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial – preserves the boarding house where this Polish patriot and hero of the American Revolution briefly stayed while in Philadelphia during the winter of 1797-1798;
  18. Wright Brothers National Memorial – marks the site of humanity’s first powered flight on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Once again, this set of national memorials also appears to be quite the mixed bag, although some themes definitely emerge.  Many of the sites are associated with the earliest days of America’s exploration and settlement – although San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monument is notably absent from this list as it is a national monument rather than a national memorial.  Several of the others, such as Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Lincoln Boyhood are on the list because they primarily rely upon reconstructions, rather than actually-preserved historic resources – or in the case of Hamilton Grange, have been moved from their original location.  Three others are the site of major tragedies, with significant loss of life.   Others, like Mount Rushmore, are truly memorials in the traditional sense.

For some more related facts to national memorials that count as national parks, you can again check out Sidebar #2.

USS Oklahoma - Bruce-001
The USS Oklahoma Memorial is a national memorial and part of World War II / Valor in the Pacific National Monument around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo Credit: B. Johnson

There are also three other memorials that are part of larger national parks outside of the Washington, DC area:

  1. White Cross World War I Memorial is a white cross that was erected in 1934 in California’s Mojave Desert, and is now located on private land within Mojave National Preserve in order to settle an “establishment of religion” claim against the memorial;
  2. (*) U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is the most-famous memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – it is now part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument;
  3. U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial is also in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is also part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  (Note: the U.S.S. Utah Memorial is also located in Pearl Harbor, but it does not appear to have been designated a national memorial by Congress. ) The U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, which is the ship that hosted the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, is also located in Pearl Harbor.  Although it is not part of the National Monument, it too has its own Passport stamp.

At the risk of getting too far into the weeds, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial was previously a stand-alone unit of the National Park System.  As such, the National Park Service listed it as a national memorial, for the reasons I described above for the WorldWar II Memorial and others.   In 2008, however, President George W. Bush designated it as part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and so the National Park Service now lists it as a national monument, rather than a national memorial.  However, since there was clearly no intention to de-designate the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial as a national memorial, I’m going to continue to include it on this list.   You can read about four other national parks that arguably could be included on this list, despite not having the word “memorial” in their name in Sidebar #3.

The Rest of the National Memorials

The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial in Philadelphia is an Affiliated Area of the National Park System. Photo from 2012.
The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial in Philadelphia is an Affiliated Area of the National Park System. Photo from 2012.

In addition to all of the above, four other national memorials are officially considered to be Affiliated Areas of the National Park System, along with two others that have unofficially had that status.  Status as an Affiliated Area makes the site eligible for additional technical assistance on preservation from National Park Service staff, as well as for inclusion in the Passport to Your National Parks program:

  1. Benjamin Franklin National Memorial – in the rotunda of the Franklin Institute Science Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
  2. Red Hill, the Patrick Henry Memorial – the home of “give me liberty or give me death” in rural southern Virginia;
  3. Father Marquette Memorial – marking the explorations of the famed French Jesuit priest  located just past the Mackinac Bridge between  the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan;
  4. Oklahoma City National Memorial – marking the tragic terrorist event of April 19, 1995.

In addition, the (5) AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco California and the (6) David Berger Memorial (an American-Israeli dual-citizen who was killed as a member of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics) in suburban Cleveland, Ohio both have been incorrectly listed as Affiliated Areas by some sources in the past.  As such, both have previously been part of the Passport Program, but no longer receive official Passport stamps from Eastern National.  In any event, both appear to continue to benefit from National Park Service technical assistance from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, respectively.

The Albert Einstein National Memorial is not part of the National Park System, as it is on the grounds of the National Academies of Sciences in Washington, DC. Photo from 2007.
The Albert Einstein National Memorial is not part of the National Park System, as it is on the grounds of the National Academies of Sciences in Washington, DC. Photo from 2007.

Finally, the following 18 national memorials have no connection with the U.S. National Park System, but round out the complete list of national memorials:

  1. Albert Einstein Memorial – on the grounds of the National Acadamies of Sciences in Washington, DC;
  2. Astronauts Memorial–  at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida;
  3. Battle of Midway National Memorial – which is now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, in far northwestern Hawaii, and which unfortunately has been closed to visitation in recent years – although you can take a virtual tour;
  4. Bosque Redondo National Memorial – marking the forcible removal of the Navajo (Dine) and Apache people, in Fort Sumner, NM;
  5. Buffalo Soldiers Memorial – which was authorized in 2005 to be constructed in New Orleans, Louisiana;
  6. Disabled Vietnam Veterans Memorial – in Angel Fire, New Mexico near Taos ski country;
  7. Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial – designated in July 2014 at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California;
  8. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – in Washington, DC, which was formerly part of the National Park System, but is now independently managed;
  9. Military Divers Memorial – which was authorized in 2013 and is planned for the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC;
  10. Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial – a large cross located in San Diego, California, in a situation similar to the Mojave Cross mentioned earlier;
  11. National D-Day Memorial – in the southwest Virginia town of Bedford;
  12. National Fallen Firefighters Memorial – in Emmitsburg, Maryland near Catoctin Mountain Park;
  13. four separate memorials, collectively known as the National Medal of Honor Sites –  in Pueblo, Colorado; Riverside, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
  14. Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Memorial, which is also located in Riverside National Cemetery, alongside one of the Medal of Honor Memorial Sites;
  15. Robert L. Kohnstamm Memorial Area – the only memorial on this list dedicated to a conservationist, located on Mt. Hood in Oregon;
  16. National Civil Defense Monument – also located in Emmitsburg, Maryland;
  17. U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial – located in its namesake city and commemorates the last ship in the U.S. Navy to sink during the Second World War;
  18. World War Memorial in Guam – marks the site where Japanese sodliers raped and massacared Guamanian civilians at the Fana Caves during the closing days of World War II.

There is a distinctly military theme, not surprisingly, to many of the memorials on this list.  It is amazing, however, to think that Riverside, California, of all places, is tied with New York City for the most national memorials of any place in the country outside of Washington, DC.  It is also interesting to note the three memorials on the above list that are dedicated to American civilians outside of public service.  Albert Einstein is such a towering figure in the history of science, that a national memorial to him is completely unsurprising.  The Bosque Redondo Memorial is in keeping with the list of National Park System national memorials that commemorate tragedies in our Nation’s history – although it is worth noting that this event gets a national memorial, whereas the removal of the Cherokee from the eastern United States gets the Trail of Tears of National Historic Trail commemorating the full route.   Finally, the most unusual entry on this list is Robert L. Kohnstamm, whom I’m not sure many readers of this past will have previously been familiar with.  For example, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry!   He apparently played a role in preserving the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and in opening Mt. Hood to recreational skiing.  A full article about him can be read here.

Conclusion

The Lincoln Memorial. Photo from 2011.
The Lincoln Memorial, which is a personal favorite of Parkasaurus.. Photo from 2011.

So, after this exhaustive summary of national memorials here is a summary of the results:

  • 12 national memorials recognized by the National Park Service as stand-alone national parks in Washington, DC;
  • 7 other national memorials in Washington, DC that are managed by the National Park Service;
  • 18 other national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks, outside of Washington, DC;
  • 3 other national memorials located inside the boundaries of national parks outside of Washington, DC;
  • 6 national memorials that are either formally or informally affiliated with the National Park System;
  • 18 national memorials that are located outside the National Park System entirely.

That makes a total of 64 national memorials!

Out of these 64, 26 of them are dedicated to wars, military victories, military service, or public service (I’m including the Astronauts Memorial and Civil Defense Memorial here.)

19 more national memorials are dedicated to U.S. Presidents (incluing four to Abraham Lincoln alone), other U.S. Founding Fathers (I’m including Federal Hall in this group ), or to Robert E. Lee.

Eight more national memorials are dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the United States.

Seven of the national memorials are dedicated to the memory of national tragedies.

Finally, four of the national memorials are dedicated to civilians primarily for civilian accomplishments in the areas of science, conservation, or civil rights.

By no means do any of the above seem to be complete lists.  The closest might be the memorials to the Founding Fathers, although if Kosciuszko is on the list of national memorials, then the names of Lafayette, Rochambeau, and von Steuben are conspicuous by their absences.   The list of explorers with national memorials, however, seems far too short, and almost random in its selection.   While hardly anyone could object to a national memorial to the scientific achievements of Albert Einstein or the Wright Brothers, that area of achievement can only be described as under-recognized.  As with many things in the National Park System – there will no doubt be more to come in the future.  In the meantime, the list of 64 national memorials provides an interesting starting point for those looking to remember our Nation’s past and history, going even beyond just those sites managed by the National Park Service.

Sources: National Park Service Site Designations List, last updated 13 July 2015; Title 16 US Code Section 431, including Notes, retrieved August 15, 2015

Bonus Fact: Congress has actually passed a resolution calling for the final resting of place of the RMS Titanic to be designated as an international maritime memorial to the men, women, and children who perished aboard her.  Of course, the Titanic sank in international waters, so its not at all clear who would have the jurisdiction to carry this out, but it is fun to think about.

 

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When Does a National Park Count Twice?

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This sign in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska helpfully tells you when you are walking the line between areas designated as national park and areas designated as national preserve.

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in our Counting the Parks series, for more on this topic, check out our page at: http://www.parkasaurus.com/?cat=4

In December, when four new parks were added to the national park system, it was widely reported that there were now 405 U.S. National Parks.   What most people don’t realize about this number is that it includes nine national parks that count twice.   This list of nine national parks that count twice are all parks that bear the designation of “& Preserve” at the end of their name.  Seven of them are designated “National Park & Preserve” and two of them are designated as “National Monument & Preserve.”

The reason for this compound designation comes down to land management in general, and sport hunting in specific.   National parks (and national monuments within the National Park System) are generally managed by the National Park Service with a prohibition on sport hunting.   On the other hand, the National Park Service has generally allowed sport hunting on lands designated as a national preserve.   Thus, there have been several cases where a single area has been designated as a combination of a national park for some areas and a national preserve for other areas in which recreational sport hunting will be allowed.  Here are the nine of them:

  • Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve – President Carter used the Antiquities Act to protect the Aniakchak Caldera in southeast Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula as a national monument in 1978, and two years later the area was expanded by the addition of a national preserve in the areas surrounding the caldera in 1980.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve – President Coolidge used the Antiquties Act to set aside dormant lava fields in central Idaho.  This area was expanded by President Clinton in 2000, and then in 2002 many of these expanded areas were redesignated as a national preserve to allow for recreational hunting.
  • Denali National Park & Preserve – Mount McKinley National Park was established in central Alaska back in 1917, but the original national park did not even include the summit of Mount McKinley.  President Carter used the Aniquities Act to designate Denali National Monument in 1978.  Then in 1980, these two areas were combined, the area designated as a national park was expanded, and two small remnants of the combined area were designated as national preserve.  Today, the national preserve areas are in the far southwestern corner and far northwestern corners of the Park, far from the developed visitor infrastructure.
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve – President Carter set aside Gates of the Arctic in northern Alaska as a national monument using the Antiquities Act in 1978.  In 1980, the area was designated as a national park, except for two areas in the northeast and southwest corners of the park, which were designated as a national preserve.
  • Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve – President Coolidge used the Antiquities Act to set aside Glacier Bay in coastal southern Alaska as a national monument in 1924.  This area was later expanded by Presidents Roosevelt and Carter.  In 1980, the area was redesignated a national park, except for a small strip of land near Dry Bay in the southeastern corner of the park, which was designated a national preserve.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to Antiquities Act to proclaim the enormous sand dunes in southern Colorado at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains a national monument.  In 2000, legislation was passed redesignating the area as a national park, and vastly expanding the park to include much of the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a national preserve.
  • Katmai National Park & Preserve – In 1918, President Wilson used the Antiquities Act to set aside a volcanic area in southeast Alaska known as “The Valley of 10,000 Smokes” as a national monument.  President Hoover would later expand this area to include the area around Brooks Falls – which is some of the best grizzily bear habitat on the planet (and is the source of many iconic photographs and videos of grizzly bears fishing for salmon.)  This area would be expanded four other times.  The last of these expansions, in 1980, redesignated the national monument as a national park, and set aside a strip of land in the northern end of the park as a national preserve.  Somewhat unuusually, not even subsitence hunting was permitted in the area designated national park, instead both subsistence hunting and recrational hunting are restricted to the area designated as a national preserve.
  • Lake Clark National Park & Preserve – This area just west of Anchorage  and Cook Inlet was also proclaimed a national monument by President Carter in 1978, and then redesignated as a national park and a national preserve  in 1980.  The national preserve consists of the western 1/3rd or so of this park.
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – The largest protected area in the national park system was etablished in 1980 and covers most of the Wrangell Mountains in eastern Alaska, stretching down into Alaska’s panhandle, where it borders Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.  In order to preserve recreational hunting and other traditional activities, the national preserve exists as a patchwork of five separate land parcels, mostly around the edges of this park.

So there you have it, there are the nine.  Obviously, there are some common themes with these parks.   All of these combined designations date from 1980 or later.   7 of them are in Alaska – resulting from the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act of 1980, which greatly expanded the National Park System in Alaska.    Also,, these combined designations arose not out of any kind of separation of the resources in these areas, but out of a desire to maintain separate land uses within different parts of the overall park.

Indeed, in many of the above cases, the area designated as a national preserve consists of land on the fringes of the park as a whole.  For the most part,  the area designated as national preserve does not include the overall park’s “core resources” that merited the designation.  Even in cases where the preserve designation is relatively large, such as in the case of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, the national preserve primarily functions to help preserve the overall landscape and environment of the larger area, without necessarily applying the highest-level restrictions on land-use to the whole thing.

 

The newly-expanded Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve will only be counting as one national park. Photo Credit: National Park Service

All of this is particularly interesting because in addition to creating new national parks, the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 also included a number of other national parks provisions.   One of these expanded and redesignated Oregon Caves National Monument to Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve.  Oregon Caves was originally set aside by President Taft in 1909.  Most caves are typically formed in limestone, but the Oregon Caves are somewhat unusual in having formed in marble (its worth noting that marble is formed from limestone that has been metamorphosed under heat and pressure).   With this expansion, however, this park goes from a mere 400-or-so acres surrounding the cave to well more than 4,000+ acres including the surrounding watershed.  Once again, part of the motivation is to continue to allow recreational hunting in the new parklands.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, this time Congress arguably avoided the “mistake” it made in previous legislation – Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve won’t be counting twice.  Instead, it explicitly remains a single park in the U.S. National Park System.

In this regard, it joins two other parks that appear to be “& Preserves,” but yet only count once.   Salt River Bay National Historical Park & Ecological Preserve in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve.   Neither of these areas have the clear-cut land management distinctions of the above 9 “& Preserves.”   In this respect, Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve will be unique in following this sensible approach, despite the land management distinctions.   In the meantime, although visiting all 405 (for now) national parks will be life-long bucket-list ambition for many, the list itself will remain one with plenty of idiosyncracies, thanks to the unusual situation of the nine national parks that in fact count twice.

Update: The original version of this post inadvertently listed Craters of the Moon as a National Park & Preserve, despite listing it as a monument in the previous paragraph.  In fact, it is a National Monument & Preserve.

 

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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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How National Heritage Areas Fit into the National Park System

The list of new stamps for October inspired me to write a little background post on National Heritage Areas.

A National Heritage Area (NHA) is one of several partnership programs managed by the National Park Service.  All National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress, and apply to a specific geographic area, usually an area of multiple counties.  A National Heritage Area generally does not have any sites that are directly manged by the Naitonal Park Service.  Instead, each National Heritage Area authorization also designates an official “partnerhip organization” that will work with the National Park Service to develop projects and programs within the geographic area of the NHA.   The projects and programs developed within an NHA can include things like historic preservation, development of interpretive displays, educational outreach projects,  resource conservation, and tourism promotion.  The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is the industry association for the various NHA partnership organizations around the country.

Like many things in the National Park System (and in fairness, like many things that originate in Congress), designations are not always done consistently.   Although the vast majority of NHA’s carry the name National Heritage Area, such as the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in northeastern Alabama, several other designations abound.  The very first National Heritage Area, the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Illinois, was designated 30 years ago in 1984.   Around a half-dozen other NHA’s go by the designation of national heritage corridor, although there is no distinction between that and a national heritage area.   Several others have unique designations including the National Coal Heritage Area in south-central West Virginia, the National Aviation Heritage Area in and around Dayton, Ohio, the Great Basin National Heritage Route in Nevada and Utah, and the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership along the New York-Vermont border.

Just as there are a variety of designations, National Heritage Areas can vary greatly in size and scope.  The Wheeling National Heritage Area consists of just the city of Wheeling, WV, tucked in to a sliver of land between Pennsylvania and Ohio.  On the other hand, the Gullah-Geechee National Heritage Corridor stretches along the Atlantic Coast from southern North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia and into northern Florida.  The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area is particularly unusual, covering the all civil war sites across the whole state of Tennessee.   Go figure.

Similarly, when it comes to the Passport Program, the 49 National Heritage Areas are all over the map.   Currently, 9 of them don’t have any Passport stamps at all.  One of those is because the partner association for the Heritage Area went out of business.  Another originally put two passport stamps in regional visitor centers, but later decided to discontinue the visitor center operations and focus on other activities.   Two others of those nine offer a picture stamp, but which unlike traditional Passport cancellations, does not have a date in the center.  The other five have all been established within the last ten years and have simply never participated in the program.

Of the remainder, 21 National Heritage Areas have either just one stamp located at the headquarters offices or a central visitor’s center, or else have just two stamps.

That leaves 19 National Heritage Areas that fully participate in the Passport Program with cancellations available at multiple locations in the area.   Even here, there is a broad range.   The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area in south-central Alaska has three locations.   By contrast, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in New York State has a whopping 67 Passport cancellations – enough to fill the North Atlantic section of a traditional blue Passport book more than three times over!

Suffice to say, National Heritage Areas come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors.  At their best, National Heritage Areas bring in to the National Park System areas that would not otherwise be suitable for direct management like the National Park System.  A great example of this is the Motorcities National Heritage Area in eastern Michigan, which includes many of that area’s world-class automotive museums.   Among those is The Henry Ford Museum, which is on many people’s bucket list, even without being Parks Passport completists.   The downside is that since National Heritage Areas operate via local partnerships, and without direct management by the National Park Service, they sometimes fail to provide the consistent visitation experience that we have come to expect from out-and-out national parks.

With that being said, I am strong believe that the National Park System, and by extension, the Passport Program, should include all of the United States’ most-significant natural, historical, and cultural sites.  The National Heritage Area program is at its best when its bringing some of America’s treasures into the National Park System, even though they will probably never be suitable for direct management by the National Park Service.   The National Park System is a better place when it includes the Motorcities, the Erie Canalway, and Niagara Falls – all of which would surely be worthy for inclusion in the National Park Service based on their national significance alone, but which either do not lend themselves easily to a traditional national park, or else are already being well- managed by outside entities, or both.

As Congress has become more budget-conscious in recent year, there have not been any new National Heritage Area designations since 9 were designated in 2009.   Both the career staff of the National Park Service and the Government Acountability Office have called for Congress to establish a stronger vision for what a National Heritage Area should be, and what the criteria should be for establishing such an area.   The rapid proliferation of National Heritage Areas in the 2000’s, in which 31 out of the 49 National Heritage Areas were established between 2000 and 2009 probably represented too-fast growth.    Nevertheless, the National Park System and the Passport Program would have some clear missing holes without them.

 

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When Is a National Park Not a National Park?

The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn't a national park.  Photo from 2010.
The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn’t a national park. Photo from 2010.

This is Part 3 in a series on Counting the Parks, click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

One of the more unusual oddities about the 401 U.S. National Parks  is that some of them are national parks without being national parks.   What do I mean?

Just take a look at the names of the of the following parks, all of which count towards the total of 401 U.S. National Parks:

You may notice that all of these parks are missing the word national.   They are simply parks, not national parks, even though all of them are run by the National Park Service.   All of the above are within day-trip distance of Washington, DC – and so all seem to owe their designation in some way to the special history and relationship of our Federal government to the Nation’s Capital.   Here’s a bit more-detailed run-down of each of these six.  I will have to do a follow-up post on two other parks that also included in this group:

Catoctin Mountain Park is easily the most-scenic out of these six.  Located on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, it protects from development the area immediately surrounding the Camp David Presidential Retreat.   Recreational opportunities include several hiking trails and campgrounds, including several cabins and lodges.

Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park.  Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov
Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park. Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov

Fort Washington Park is perhaps surprisingly included in this category, rather than being designated a national monument or a national historic site.   This is one of at least a half-dozen national park sites that preserves the story of coastal defenses in the United States during the 19th Century (coastal defense forts were built to last – so they tend to make good historic sites.)   Fort Washington is located in Maryland, just downstream of Washington, DC on the Potomac River.   Today in addition to historical programs, it is a very popular picnic site for the local community.

Greenbelt Park is located in the planned community and Washington, DC suburb of Greenbelt, MD.   Greenbelt is one of three planned communities that arose out of the Great Depression, the others being Greenhils, OH near Cincinnati and Greendale, WI near Milwaukee.  I’ve often thought that it would be interesting for Greenbelt Park to develop a visitor center and exhibits dedicated to the history of urban planning in this country – but for now it is primarily a recreational park of mostly local interest.   If you are planning to visit the Nation’s Capital and would prefer to camp, rather than get a hotel room, then Greenbelt Park is the place to go – as it is a very short drive from the Greenbelt Metro Station.

Piscataway Park is located not that far from Fort Washington Park in southern Maryland.   It was originally set aside to preserve the natural view from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate, on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  (Interestingly, Mount Vernon would rank near the top of any list of “most famous places in the U.S. that are not national parks” – but that’s a topic for anotherpost.)   In addition to preserving the sightlines for moder-day visitors to Mount Vernon, Piscataway Park also hosts the National Colonial Farm – a living history park of Colonial Farming practices.   This makes it one of at least three living history colonial farms in the National Park System, along with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia and the farm at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana.

Prince Wiliam Forest Park is very similar to Greenbelt Park in primarily a recreational park primarily of local interest near Quanitco Marine Corps Base,  a little more than an hour south of Washington, DC in northern Virginia.  There are several hiking trails in the park,  including the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, as well as a large campground, and the park loop road is very popular with joggers and bicyclists.  There are also a number of interpretive displays here on the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps in building this park during the Great Depression.   This park also has more than a few hidden gems, including a historic pyrite mine and a tree stump from a petrified forest.

DSC03393
This petrified tree stump is one of the surprising hidden gems to be found at Prince William Forest Park.

 

Finally, Rock Creek Park is located right within Washington, DC itself.   Its interesting to note that it was established by Congress all the way back in 1890, four days before Yosemite National Park was established – making it one of the oldest parks in the U.S. National Park System.  Although it is more than twice as large as New York’s Central Park – it is largely managed as wild area, rather than as manicured landscape.  Among the recreational highlights of the park are a Planitarium at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, as well as horse stables.

All told, none of these six parks would be at the top of one’s list if you were visiting the United States from another country, or even if you were visiting the east coast from the other side of the country.   With that being said, all of them have their highlights and interesting bits of history to investigate, particularly if you are attempting to be a “park completist.”

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Celebrating Cabrillo

This statue of the Portugese explorer Juan Rodriguez Explorer Cabrillo is the iconic centerpiece of Carbillo National Monument in San Diego. Picture is from the author’s visit in 2012.

Next weekend, September 27th-28th, 2014, Cabrillo National Monument will be joining in San Diego’s 51st Annual Cabrillo Festival.   The Festival commemorates the explorer’s arrival in San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542 – just 50 years after Christopher Columbus’ first arrival in the “New World.”

Cabrillo National Monument is one of three units of the National Park System that is dedicated by name to European exploration of the Americas.   The Coronado National Memorial on the Arizona-Mexico border commemorates the 1540 arrival of Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado – an expedition that would reach as far north and east as Kansas, before returning to Mexico.   The De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida commemorates the 1539 arrival of the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto – an expedition that would reach as far north and west as the Mississippi River before returning to Mexico.

From a “counting the parks” perspective, its interesting to note that the Cabrillo site is designated a National Monument, whereas the other two are National Memorials.    This is because the Cabrillo site was originally established via a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 under the Antiquities Act, and all sites designated under the Antiquities Act are established as national monuments.  By contrast, Congress authorized establishment of the Coronado National Memorial in 1941, and the De Soto National Memorial was authorized by Congress in 1948.  As near as I can tell, there hasn’t been any movement to normalize Cabrillo’s designation by redesignating it as a national memorial.   Then again, maybe I’m one of the few people who worry about such things…

This festival caught my attention because it made me wonder if this might not be the earliest date that is marked annually by the National Park Service.  I know that’s kind of an interesting concept to think about.   None of the American Indians in the present-day United States, so far as I know, left us with a written calendar that could correspond to an actual date.  Thus, the “earliest date” marked in the National Park System, would have to date back to the age of European exploration of the Americas.

Right now, I am not aware of any similar “arrival day” celebrations at Coronado or De Soto.  By contrast, the British wouldn’t arrive at Jamestown, which is now part of Colonial National Historical Park, until May 4, 1607.  Three years before that, in 1604, the French attempted to establish a colony on the present-day border of Maine and New Brunswick, at what is now Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.   Even earlier than that was the famous “lost colony” of Roanoke, established by the British in North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 1586.  That site is now Fort Raleigh National Historic Site – but that is still 42 years later after these expeditions by the Spanish explorers.

It turns out, though, that to find the earliest candidate date in the National Park System, you have to go to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  There, Salt River Bay Ecological & Historical Preserve marks the spot where Christopher Columbus himself landed on his second voyage to the Western Hemispher, on  November 14, 1493.   So there you have it, as near as I can tell, this is the earliest date marked in the National Park System.

As a postscript to this story, its interesting to note that of the three early Spanish conquistadors/explorers comemorated in the National Park System, 1542 was a rough year.   Hernando de Soto would die of a fever somewhere near the Mississippi River in Arkansas or Louisiana on May 21, 1542.  Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo would shatter one of his legs on sharp rocks later that year in November, and he would pass away on January 3, 1543.  Only Francisco Vasquez de Coronado would safely return to Mexico from his expedition, and he would ultimately live until 1554, when he would die at the age of 43 or 44.  Ironically, this was roughly the age of De Soto and Carbrillo when they met their demises as well.

Mama, don’t let your kids grow up to be conquistadors…..

 

 

 

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