Tag Archives: Blackstone River Valley NHP

July Stories Behind the Stamps – Stories of New England’s Economy

The historic buildings and wharves of Salem Maritime National Historic Site are among the locations with new Passport cancellations this month.
The historic buildings and wharves of Salem Maritime National Historic Site are among the locations with new Passport cancellations this month. Photo from 2005.

A large set of new stamps for this month:

Honouliuliu National Monument | Waipahu, HI

Stonewall National Monument |New York, NY

Salem Maritime National Historic Site:

      • Custom House
      • Derby House
      • Derby Light
      • Narbonne House
      • Waite & Peirce

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park:

      • Hopedale, MA
      • Kelly House
      • Slater Mill
      • Slatersville, RI
      • Whitinsville, MA

Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Shenandoah National Park

Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership:

      • Lake George Historical Association Museum
      • Pember Museum of Natural History

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail:

      • Pinedale, WY
      • South Fork, CO
      • Pagosa Springs, CO
      • Chama, NM
      • Cuba, NM
      • Pie Town, NM
      • Silver City, NM

North Country National Scenic Trail:

      • Crown Point State Historic Site, NY
      • Madison, Wisconsin

The headliners from this group are the stamps for the newly designated Stonewall National Monument in New York City and the relatively newly designated Honouliuli National Monument outside of Honolulu, Hawaii.  Despite the name, Stonewall National Monument consists of Christopher Park, located adjacent to a bar known as the Stonewall Inn – which was famously the site of riots on June 28, 1969 protesting police harrassment of gays.  The stamp is being made avaialable at an information table in the Park, as well as each of the seven other national park sites located in Manhattan and nearby Mount Vernon, NY.

Honouliuli National Monument was added to the National Park System in March 2015.  It previously had a locally-made stamp it was using as a cancellation, this its first official Passport cancellation from Eastern National.

The Derby House is to the left of the path, and the Hawkes House is to the immediate right of the path. The Derby House is represented on one of the new stamps this month for Salem Maritime NHS.
The Derby House is to the left of the path, and the Hawkes House is to the immediate right of the path. The Derby House is represented on one of the new stamps this month for Salem Maritime NHS.  Photo from 2005.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site is located in the town just north of Boston that is perhaps most famous today for its 17th Century “witch trials.”  However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Salem was famous for its maritime trading network that stretched literally around the world.  Today, the National Park Service site encompasses the historic wharves and approximately 10 historic buildings.

On July 14, 2006, Eastern National celebrated the grand opening a new bookstore and gift shop for the Park, which they branded as “Waite & Peirce” after one of the most-prominent trading partnerships from the port’s heyday.  Aaron Waite (1742-1830) appears to have formed his partnership with Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827) in 1778, at the height of the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain.  Records indicate that they jointly owned the two-gun schooner, Greyhound, and they likely used it in privateering ventures – i.e. attempts to capture British merchant vessels.  After the war, Waite & Peirce built a successful mercantile enterprise that lasted until Peirce’s death in 1827.  Among their merchant vessels was the Friendship.  A fully sea-worthy replica of that boat, the Friendship of Salem, is now part of the park.

The Custom House is one of the centerpieces of the park, and the largest of the park’s historical buildings.   The Custom House is where  government officials worked who were responsible for overseeing the trade in the port of Salem and imposing the appropriate custom duties on cargo shipments.  One of those government officials was Nathaniel Hawthorne whose House with Seven Gables is not official part of the national park, but is also one of the most-significant historical sites in Salem.

The Derby House formerly belonged to the Derby family, one of Salem’s most-successful merchant families.  The Friendship of Salem is docked on Derby Wharf, which is part of the park, and the Derby Light lighthouse, which dates back to 1871, is located at the end of the Derby Wharf.   Finally, the Narbonne House is set back a little bit from Salem’s waterfront and is more typical of the residences for Salem’s working class and small business owner families.

The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park was established just a few months before Honouliuli National Monument, in December 2014.   It received its first set of three stamps in September 2015.  The new stamps for Hopedale, MA; Whitinsville, MA; and Slatersville, RI represent the three historic districts that were included in this park by its authorizing legislation.  Interestingly, each of those stamps will be located at public libraries within those historic districts.  The National Park Service has posted some very short videos on the significance of each of the historic districts.

The other two sites are both located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  The historic Slater Mill is perhaps the signature attraction of this national park, with claims to being the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the United States in 1793.  The Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum is part of the Blackstone River State Park, which encompasses a linear band of 12 miles of the Blackstone River.  Captain Kelly was a successful sea trader who went on to found a textile mill in the early 19th Century, as part of the advance of the Industrial Revolution.

Hikers along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Shenandoah National Park can also enjoy some of the spectacular scenery.
Hikers along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Shenandoah National Park can also enjoy some of the spectacular scenery.  The trail is in the foreground of this photo.  Photo from 2010.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail  stretches some 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia.  This stamp marks the 101 miles that lie within Shenandoah National Park.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, on the other hand, stretches nearly 3,000 miles all the way from Canada to Mexico along the crest of the Rocky Mountains – although unlike the Appalachian Trail, this trail is not yet complete, and some parts of the designated route remain on private land.  Also, since the lead agency for the Continental Divide Trail is the US Forest Service, this trail is not considered to be its own unit of the National Park System.  The Continental Divide Trail does pass through four units of the National Park System.  Both Rocky Mountain National Park  in Colorado and El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico have self-made stamps, whereas there are still no Continental Divide NST stamps available at either Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks.   These seven new stamps will all be located at various rest stops and information centers along the Trail.

In addition those stamps, I’ve also updated my master list of stamp locations to include five dated unofficial stamps featuring the trail logo  offered by the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in Montana and Idaho.   The Nez Perce Trail marks the route the Nez Perce Indians and their leader, Chief Joseph, took in 1877 as they fled the U.S. Army.

I’ve also updated my list to include three unofficial dated stamps released by the Arizona National Scenic Trail, one for each of the National Park Service units that trail passes through: Coronado National Memorial, Saguaro National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park.

Visitors to Chama, New Mexico can check out not only this National Historic Landmark (mislabeled as a National Historic Site), but also a new cancellation for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
Visitors to Chama, New Mexico can check out not only this National Historic Landmark (mislabeled as a National Historic Site), but also a new cancellation for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

The Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership has been slowly adding stamps, with previous releases in October 2014 and August 2015.   The Lake George Historical Association Museum interprets the story of the resort town located on the lake of the same name in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  The Pember Museum of Natural History is located about an hour’s drive to the east in Granville, New York.

Crown Point State Historic Site is located on the southern end of Lake Champlain, and preserves Revolutionary War-era fortifications.  Although this month it gets a stamp for the North Country National Scenic Trail, it would be a logical location for a future Champlain Valley National Heritage Patnership stamp as well.  The other North Country NST stamp this month is for the Trail Association’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

A view of the Friendship of Salem taken from the top of the historic Custom House, which is also one of the new cancellation locations at Salem Maritime NHS.
A view of the Friendship of Salem taken from the top of the historic Custom House, which is also one of the new cancellation locations at Salem Maritime NHS.

 

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September New Stamps: Devils Hole, Ice Age Floods, and More!

 

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Fort Pulaski National Monument, near Savannah, Georgia, is one of the many parks with a new passport stamp this month.

 

Since I’ve started tracking the monthly releases of new stamps for this blog last year in September, this may be the single biggest month yet.  Indeed, the last few months may be the single-greatest expansion of the stamp program in a three month period, or at the very least, the largest expansion since the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area added 60+ new stamps in a single month back in the winter of 2008.

With such a long list, I am going to break the listings into two parts, starting with the new passport stamp additions for parks that are counted among the 408 units of the U.S. National Park System.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area | Charit Creek Lodge

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park |

  • Ashton, RI
  • Pawtucket, RI
  • RI / MA

Bryce Canyon National Park | Bryce, UT

Death Valley National Park | Devils Hole

Fort Pulaski National Monument | Sutler Store

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area | St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam

There were also two special event stamps discovered this month:

Andersonville National Historic Site | Funeral for 13,000

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens | Lotus & Water Lilly Festival

Most notable among these new stamps are the three new ones for the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.  This is one of the new national parks that was established in last December’s Defense Authorization Act.  In fact, this national park is still so new, that the National Park Service doesn’t even have a website up and running for it, although once the website is ready, it looks like you’ll be able to find it at www.nps.gov/blac*.  Pawtucket, Rhode Island is the home of the Slater Mill, which is arguably the centerpiece of the new national historical park, and has a claim to be one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.  Ashton, Rhode Island is the home of Blackstone River State Park, which features a canal towpath and riverwalk, as well as the Captain Wilber Kelly House Museum.

Fort Pulaski National Monument is the local national park in Savannah, Georgia, and is one of several “coastal fortification” sites in the National Park System.  The Sutler Store is the park bookstore, located inside the fort, and previously housed a second copy of the stamps found in the visitor center at the entrace to the fort.  It looks like it will now have a stamp of its own.

The Charit Creek Lodge is one of a handful of unique, backcountry lodges located in the National Park System.  A hiking trip out to this lodge is another good reason for a trip out to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  Meanwhile, the new stamps at Bryce Canyon National Park and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area appear at first glance to simply re-issues of stamps for existing stamp locations.  The St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam, for example, are located directly behind the Mill City Museum which is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Minneapolis, regardless of whether you are visiting the national parks or collecting the passport stamps.  The Mill City Museum does a really fantastic job telling the story of the Twin Cities, and the history of milling industry in the area.

The Funeral for 13,000 program at Andersonville National Historic Site will commemorate the Civil War dead who are buried there.
The Funeral for 13,000 program at Andersonville National Historic Site will commemorate the Civil War dead who are buried there.

At Andersonville National Historic Site, the “Funeral for 13,000” is a special event held this September to commemorate the burying at the end of the Civil War of the numerous Union soldiers who died there.  According to the park’s website, this will be a very limited-edition cancellation, only available in September – which will surely be frustrating to the “passport completists” out there.   On the other hand, the Lotus and Water Lilly Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC is an annual event held each July – so enthusiasts will have another opportunity to collect that stamp next summer.

Perhaps the most striking of the new stamps, however, is the new stamp for Devil’s Hole at Death Valley National Park.   Devil’s Hole is home to what most scientists consider to be the world’s rarest fish.   The tiny, inch-long, Devil’s Hole pupfish lives nowhere else on earth but this small desert pond of only about 500 square feet in surface area – a space that’s smaller than some master bedrooms that are built these days.

I first learned about Devils Hole when it was mentioned in one of the most memorable and formative stories that I read while growing up.  I suppose it says a lot about me, with no further commentary needed, that I was reading Natural History magazine  on a monthly basis as a teenager.  Make of that what you will, but the January 1993 issue had a haunting article entitled “Species in a Bucket” – the memory of which has still stuck with me.  The subject of this story was a close relative of the Devil’s Hole pupfish, this one called the Owens pupfish.   The story relates an incident from 1969 in which the author, a wildlife biologist, found himself carrying the entire surviving population of Owens pupfish in two buckets in order to save the species from near-certain extinction due to declining water levels in its native habitat.   Fortunately, restoration efforts for this species have led to four established populations, leaving it slightly less-endangered than the Devils Hole pupfish.   Nonetheless, this article is worth reading, and Natural History magazine has made it available for free online, so I encourage you to check it out and see if it impacts you as much as it did my younger self.

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The St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam are part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minneapolis, Minnesota and are commemorated in a new passport stamp this month.

Finally, a number of National Park Service partners also received stamps this month.   Due to limitations of space and time, I’ll simply list them without extensive commentary this month:

Coal National Heritage Area | Princeton Railroad Museum

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area |

  • Corinth, MS
  • Tishomingo County
  • New Albany, MS
  • Holly Springs, MS
  • DeSoto County
  • Oxford, MS
  • Starkville, MS
  • Columbus, MS

The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area is located in northeast Missouri.  These eight stamps join two existing stamps for a total of ten.   The awkwardly named  National Coal Heritage Area is located in southern West Virginia, and now has nine active passport stamp locations.

California National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Oregon National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Pony Express National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY

Pony Express National Historic Trail | St. Joseph, MO

Its worth noting that Fort Bridger is a Wyoming State Historic Site, and was a notable trading outpost on the western trails.   St. Joseph, Missouri is the famous starting point of the short-lived overland mail route.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail | El Rancho de los Golondrias, NM

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | New Mexico History Museum, NM

North Country National Sceni Trail | Carlton, MN

Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

  • Havre de Grace, MD
  • Oxon Hill, MD
  • Fort Washington, MD
  • Piscataway Park
  • Smallwood State Park, MD
  • Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
  • Historic St. Mary’s City, MD
  • Point Lookout State Park, MD
  • Deltaville, VA
  • Urbanna, VA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Onacock, VA

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail |

  • Montana Natural History Center
  • National Bison Range
  • Fort Spokane
  • Dry Falls State Park
  • Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Vista House

This is the second stamp for El Rancho de los Golondrias, which already had a stamp for the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail.   The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico was a hub of trading activity first for Spanish Mexico, and then for independent Mexico after 1821.  The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is literally the “Royal Road to the Interior” and connected the colonial capital of Aguascalientes, located in the center of present-day Mexico, to the trading post of Santa Fe.   Following Mexican independence in 1821, trade was opened with the United States, and the Santa Fe Trail was a trading route from Missouri to Santa Fe.  El Rancho de los Golondrias, literally, “Ranch of the Swallows,” is located about a days’ walk to the south and west of Santa Fe, and so was a popular “last stop” for traders arriving on the camino real for the south.   Its a little surprising to see this location receive a stamp for the Santa Fe NHT, as it does not appear to be located on the trail route itself, located as it is just to the west of Santa Fe.   However, today the site operates as a living history museum, and its possible that they have added some educational exhibits on the Santa Fe Trail, given the site’s proximity to Santa Fe.

For the North Country National Scenic Trail,  Carlton, Minnesota is located just outside of Duluth, on the southwest tip of Lake Superior.  It is located adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park, which has long had a passport stamp reading “Minnesota” on it, and so this is probably its first place-specific passport stamp.

The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail may bring travelers to discover the landscapes of eastern Washington. Photo from 2004.
The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail may bring travelers to discover the landscapes of eastern Washington. Photo from 2004.

 

Finally, perhaps the highlight of this month’s stamps are the first seven stamps for the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.   Imagine a lake larger than the State of Delaware and more than twice as deep as Lake Superior suddenly letting loose in a massive flood, sending all that water racing at once across hundreds of miles towards the ocean.  The force an power of these floods would surely alter the shape of the landscape for thousands of years to come!  Geologists tell us that that is exactly what happened approximately 12,000 years ago on the plains of western Montana and easter Washington.

In fact, geologists tell us that similar events happened several times during the previous 5,000 years.  The sources of these floods were water and ice from the melting glaciers of the last ice age.  Periodically, ice would form a natural dam in a valley, causing a large lake to form.   When the ice dam would melt or break, the lake would drain – sometimes violently.

The largest of the floods, which I described above, was also one of the last such floods.  Geologists call the source of this flood Glacial Lake Missoula, and when the ice gave way, it let loose at speeds up to 45 miles an hour.  At its peak, the flood may have released a torrent of water at the rate of 400 million cubic feet of water per second.   As a comparison, the Amazon River only flows at 6 million cubic feet per second.

Its not known if any human had yet arrived in the area to witness this cataclysmic event.   Archeologists date the first arrival of humans in the United States right around 12,000 years ago as well.  If any early settlers were in the area, the sheer noise of this event must have been as terrifying as the scouring of the landscape.

Congress established the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail in 2009, and this is the first trail to bear the designation “National Geologic Trail.”  Its obviously been quite an effort to get this first National Geologic Trail up and running – but the release of these seven passport stamps is perhaps the first indication that this program is open and ready for discovery.

With this month’s additions there are now 1,981 active passport cancellations to collect.  Excluding anniversary and special-event stamps, there are 1,883 passport stamps.

Source:  Weis, Paul and William L. Newman. The Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington: The Geologic Story of the Spokane Flood 2nd Edition. U.S. Department of the Interior and Eastern Washington University Press.  1999.

Update (September 2016): The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park now has its own website, separate from the National Heritage Corridor.  It can be found at http://www.nps.gov/blrv 

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Digging Deeper into Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

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The Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey are one of the newest units of the National Park System.

In the relatively few posts that I have made for this blog so far, readers may have noticed that I love new national parks.   A visit to a new national park is much different from a visit to an older national park, as it really takes a good 10 years for most of the trappings we come to expect out of a national park visit to be established.  That means the significance of visiting one of these new places may not always immediately jump out to you on your visit, and it may instead require a bit more digging to find the things that make the place one of the 400-or-so most-important places in the United States.

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in the outer New York City suburb of Paterson, New Jersey.  Congress authorized establishment of this park in March 2009, and after more than a year and a half of negotiations on land acquisition, it finally came into being as the 397th national park in November 2011.

This hydroelectric plant was built in the early 20th century by the Society for the establishment of Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.), a company that was originally founded by Alexander Hamilton.
This hydroelectric plant was built in the early 20th century by the Society for the establishment of Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.), a company that was originally founded by Alexander Hamilton.

Now its worth noting that many advocates for the National Park System rolled their eyes when Paterson Great Falls NHP was established.   On one hand, it was pretty clear that the intent to use national park tourism as an engine for economic development was pretty clearly a driving force behind the effort.  Ever since Lowell National Historical Park successfully turned the old cotton mills in the Boston-area outer suburb of Lowell, Massachusetts into not just a national park, but a successful tourist attraction, many other declining factory towns throughout the northeastern United States have dreamed of duplicating the success.  Those dreams were pretty clearly part of the equation here.

For example, when reading about the importance of the new national park, the starting point is usually the Great Falls of the Passaic River themselves.   As you can see from the above photos, the falls are kind of nice, and perhaps a bit unusual in being located in such an urban setting, but are not quite at the level of becoming a natural wonder of the world of anything like that.

After the falls for themselves, descriptions of this park’s importance always include the role of Alexander Hamilton in this area.   As Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was concerned with establishing the economic independence of the fledgling United States, and in particlar, of reducing the reliance of the States on imported manufactured goods.  At that time, the United States were primarily exporting raw crops and natural resources back to Europe, and were importing almost all of its manufactured goods.   To that end, Hamilton established the Society for the establishment of Useful Manufactures, and selected the Great Falls of the Passaic River as the source of hydro-power that would underpin the manufacturing efforts.  The new town would be named after the then-governor of New Jersey, William Paterson, who would actually go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.   The designer of the new capitol city of Washington, DC, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, would even make a cameo appearance here – designing a series of canal raceways to carry the hydro-power of the falls to the mills located throughout the town.   The ruins of these old raceways are still visible in the town today.

Still, with all that being said, the history here still had a bit of an “Alexander Hamilton slept here” feel to it.   After all, there is already a national park devoted to the life of Alexander Hamilton at his former estate, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial,  located in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.  Additionally, despite Alexander Hamilton’s role in founding S.U.M., its not particularly clear, or at least was not from my visit, whether the manufacturing techniques developed in Paterson, New Jersey really had a larger effect on the Industrial Revolution throughout the United States as a whole.   For example, the recently-established Blackstone River Valley NHP (see Parkasaurus post here) includes the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  The Slater Mill was founded in 1793, just two years after S.U.M., and is credited with being the “birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.”

Its possible that this slogan simply reflects better marketing by the Old Slater Mill, but it seems that there is a decent argument that the development of factories in Pawtucket had a greater impact on the United States as a whole than-did the efforts of S.U.M. in Paterson.   On the other hand, it iss still early days at this new national park in Paterson, so it will be interesting to watch how that story is told in the years to come.

The Paterson Museum tells the story of Paterson's history, including the historical significance of this locomotive, located in front of the museum
The Paterson Museum tells the story of Paterson’s history, including the historical significance of this locomotive, located in front of the museum.

In order to dig deeper into the history of this place, however, the Paterson Museum, located in an old factory, is a must-stop location at this park.   Inside the Museum, there are a few exhibits on the history of Paterson, from the first American Indians all the way to the middle 20th Century.   There are some interesting historical footnotes about Paterson, including the fact that the engine of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis was manufactured here, as were the first modern submarines.   Perhaps the most interesting footnote to me, however, was the information on the heavy-duty locomotives that were manufactured in Paterson.  This includes Engine 299, which is now located outside the museum, and which represents the heavy-duty locomotives that were used in the construction of the Panama Canal.

The construction of the Panama Canal is truly one of the great achievements in U.S. history, one that changed the course of history.  Although the Suez Canal was completed in 1869 at a length of around 120-or-so miles, the difficult terrain and climate in the Isthmus of Panama thwarted canal-building attempts for decades, despite being less than 50 miles in length.  Over the course of multiple attempts by first the French and then by the United States, tens of thousands of people would die in the construction, until finally the current canal was completed in 1914.  According to the Paterson Museum, the heavy locomotives built in Paterson were instrumental in the ultimate success of that effort.

Since the Canal Zone was returned to Panama in 1999, there are obviously no prospects of a U.S. national park located at the site of the canal itself.   Thus, if Paterson Great Falls NHP were to  become an unofficial “Panama Canal National Historical Park” in its development, and telling the broader story of the construction of Panama Canal, then that would certainly cement this park’s historical importance as of the nation’s 400-or-so most important places in the U.S. National Park System.

Hinclife Stadium was added to Paterson Great Falls NHP in December 2014, making it the first historic place related to professional sports in the U.S. National Park System.
Hinchlife Stadium was added to Paterson Great Falls NHP in December 2014, making it the first historic place related to professional sports in the U.S. National Park System.

Finally, there is one last historic story to mention at Paterson Great Falls NHP.  The Defense Authorization Act of 2015, in addition to creating a number of new national parks, it also expanded the boundaries of several others, including Paterson Great Falls NHP.   In this case, the boundaries of Paterson Great Falls NHP were expanded to include Hinchliffe Stadium, which is notable for the fact that it once played host to a significantnumber of Negro League Baseball games.

It will be interesting to see what the National Park Service is ultimately able to do with this property in terms of restoration and historical interpretation.   Professional sports have not really been a theme that the National Park Service has much experience in interpreting – except for maybe the occasional mention of a U.S. President being a sports fan at the National Historic Site devoted to that President.   Other than that, baseball gets a brief mention at Fort Pulaski National Monument – primarily because there is this photograph from 1862 (in the middle of the Civil War!), which is one of the earliest known photographs of a baseball game.   Of course, Negro League baseball is an important historical theme not just for the accomplishments of African-American ball-players on the field, but because of the imporThis addition will likely make Paterson Great Falls NHP an entry-point for telling the story of the 20th Century struggle for civil rights in the North.   In this case, it will compliment the stories already being told at several other national parks, but which are primarily located in Washington, DC and in states to the south.

If you go to visit Paterson Great Falls NHP, you may want to strongly consider downloading the Mill Mile App, which is available on both Itunes and Google Play.  The App will give you everything you need to plan your visit, and most importantly, an audio walking tour of the area.  The first half of the walking tour is even narrated by famous New Jerseyian Brian Williams – which I guess was more of a big deal just a few weeks ago than it is right now.  There is also one Passport stamp for the park, not surprisingly for “Paterson, NJ”, and its available at three locations, including the Paterson Museum and the NPS Offices.

Overall, these remain early days for the development of Paterson Great Falls NHP.  Digging deeper into this park, however, its easy to see the potential for this place to tell a number of important historical stories.

A detail from the outside of Hinchliffe Stadium.
A detail from the outside of Hinchliffe Stadium.

 

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A Defense Act for New National Parks

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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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