With more than 200 National Parks now closed to the public, many sites are beginning to do livestream events, bringing their parks to the public during this period of of social separation. I’m going to try and keep track of a running list of these events here and encourage the use of the hashtag #NPSLive to spread the word! All times Eastern.
Canaveral National Seashore | Apollo Beach Playalinda Beach
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park | Iron Furnace 1819 Tri-State Marker
Cuyahoga Valley National Park | Cuyahoga River Water Trail
Gateway Arch National Park | Old Courthouse
Guadalupe Mountains National Park | Guadalupe Peaks – The Top of Texas Salt Basin Dunes Williams Ranch
Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area | Freeport, IL Jonesboro, IL Petersburg, IL Pontiac, IL
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial | Living Historical Farm
Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie National Historical Park | Charleston Harbor, SC Fort Moultrie Liberty Square
Reconstruction Era National Historical Park | Beaufort, SC Port Royal, SC St. Helena Island, SC
Cedar Breaks National Monument | Brianhead, Utah
Fort Hunt Park | Fairfax, VA Fort Marcy Park | Fairfax, VA
Olympic National Park | Hoodsport WIC Port Angeles WIC
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail | Port Tobacco, MD
Coal National Heritage Area | Ashland Company Store
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Las Lagunas de Anza, CA
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network | Roving Ranger Annapolis, MD
Stories Behind the Stamps
Leading off the new stamps this month are two new cancellations for Canaveral National Seashore on Florida’s Space Coast. Its fitting that a stamp for “Apollo Beach” is being issued in the same year that we are celebrating the historic 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing. Canaveral National Seashore shares the Cape with Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As near as I can tell, though, Apollo Beach has no significance to the space program other than being named in its honor.
The Seashore itself is divided into three beaches on the barrier islands just to the north of the Kennedy Space Center. The new cancellation for Apollo Beach is possibly a replacement for the existing Passport cancellation reading “New Smyrna Beach, FL,” which is the closest town to Apollo Beach. Apollo Beach is the northern-most beach in the park, and is where the park’s main visitor center is, as well as the historic Eldora state house from an early 20th-century resort. Despite this fact, Apollo Beach actually gets significantly less visitation than Playalinda Beach, the southern-most beach in the park. Playalinda, which means “beautiful beach” in Spanish, is only accessible by driving through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and there may be temporary access restrictions during space launch activity at the nearby Kennedy Space Center.
Located between Apollo Beach and Playalinda Beach is Klondike Beach, but it is not accessible by car, and so does not have its own Passport cancellation, at least not yet.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, located in far western Texas added three cancellations this month, giving it a total of 8 active cancellations. Seven of the eight stamps are available at the park’s Pine Springs Visitor Center on the south side of the park, including all three of the new stamps. One of the new stamps commemorates the fact that Guadalupe Peak at 8,751 feet is the highest point in Texas. The peak is accessible through a well-marked 4.2 mile one-way trail from the Visitor Center. The Salt Basin Dunes are stunning white gypsum sand dunes. To access the dunes requires a one hour drive around to the remote west side of the park, and then a one mile hike. The access road is impassable when wet, so this will not be a destination for every park visitor. The Williams Ranch is accessible only by special permit with a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle or else a strenuous 10+ mile one way hike. Suffice to say, that will be a destination that few park visitors will make it to.
The overall stamp for the park reads “Salt Flat, Texas.” The park also has a cancellation commemorating the path of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route through the park. There is also a stamp for the nearby historic Frijole Ranch. The last stamp at the main visitor center is for McKittrick Canyon, which is located a 45 minute drive around to the east side of the park. The McKittrick Canyon area has three hiking trails, a self-guided nature trail, the geology-focused Permian Reef trail, and the main trail into McKittrick Canyon itself.
The eighth stamp for Guadalupe Mountains National Park is for Dog Canyon on the north side of the park. Dog Canyon is only accessible from New Mexico, and is a 2.5 hour drive from the Pine Springs Visitor Center.
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park has added two new stamps this month to encourage visitors to more thoroughly explore all the places this park has to offer, although all stamps are located at the main visitor center – the only stamping location for the park. The Cumberland Gap is the famous location where Daniel Boone led settlers west of the Appalachian on the Wilderness Road. The Tri-State Marker commemorates the joint border of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia inside the park. It is accessible by a 1.2 mile one-way hike from the Wilderness Road Parking Lot on the Pinnacle View Road. The Iron Furnace is an easy two-tenths of a mile hike from the Iron Furnace Parking Area located at 902 Pennlynn Avenue in the nearby town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee (although the trail is located entirely in Virginia.
These two new additions give Cumberland Gap NHP a total of seven active non-anniversary Passport cancellations. A stamp reading “Middlesboro, KY” is the overall stamp for the Park. There are also cancellations at the main visitor center available for the Wilderness Road Trail, the Pinnacle Overlook, the Gap Cave, and the Hensley Settlement. The Wilderness Road Trail and Pinnacle Overlook are easily accessible from the main park road. The Gap Cave is only accessible by a one mile hike, followed by a half mile inside the cave, and requires closed-toe shoes; children under 5 are not permitted. The historic Hensley Settlement is ordinarily only accessible by guided tour with advance reservations, but all tours have been cancelled for 2019 due to deteriorated road conditions.
Gateway Arch National Park gets a new stamp this month for the Old Courthouse. In addition to preserving the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, this National Park also preserves the Old Courthouse, which served as a site for both Federal and state courts. The Old Courthouse was where the Missouri Courts, including the Missouri Supreme Court, heard the the Dred Scott cases. Those cases ultimately resulted in the infamous 1857 US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, which bizarrely and controversially held that “black people” were not, and indeed, never could be, citizens of the United States.
Gateway Arch National Park is not thought often thought about as a “Civil War” park. However, it does tell the story of how the Nation’s westward expansion made our tenuous compromise on the issue of slavery ever-more unstable. Ironically, Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, the author of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, thought that he was writing a decision that would help settle the issue of slavery. In fact, the infamous decision further set the Nation on a course towards Civil War.
The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in southern Indiana commemorates the time that America’s greatest President spent in Indiana, in between the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois. As the designation of the site as a national memorial implies, little remains of the Lincoln family home from this time period, other than what has been revealed by archeologists. However, in addition to the memorial structure itself, the site includes a living history farm as a tribute to Lincoln’s formative years here.
The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area adds four new cancellations. Freeport, Illinois was the site of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, and has a memorial to the debate that occurred there as well as a historic museum. Jonesboro, Illinois was the site of the third Lincoln-Douglas debate, and likewise has a memorial and offices for the Shawnee National Forest, where the cancellation will be located. Pontiac, Illinois was one of the many communities were Lincoln practiced law and today has a museum dedicated to Historic Route 66. The new cancellation for Petersburg, Illinois will apparently be located at the Riverbank Lodge resort.
The Cuyahoga River Water Trail is an ambitious proposal to encourage the use of the restored Cuyahoga River for boating and paddling of all kinds. The section of the Cuyahoga River flowing through Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of five designated segments along the trail.
Two national parks in South Carolina received new names thanks to the Dingell Act, and now have updated cancellations. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park was famously the site of the opening salvos in the American Civil War. South Carolinian-occupied batteries on the mainland opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, which was occupied by Federal troops. The main visitor center for the park is located on Liberty Square in downtown Charleston, and is also the primary departure point for boat excursions to Fort Sumter on the island. Fort Moultrie is located just across the river from Liberty Square and played only a minor role in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Today it shows the history of coastal defenses all the way from the antebellum years through to the Second World War. The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park includes three sites related to the integration of the freed slaves into society following emancipation. Located in and around Beaufort, South Carolina, a short drive from Charleston, the area provides an interesting set of “book ends” with the place where the Civil War began and some of the places where the post-war era began.
There are lots more other changes to the National Park System included in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which has now been officially signed into law.
Among the many remaining changes that jump out to me is that Death Valley National Park is expanded by 35,292 acres, further expanding the largest national park in the contiguous 48 states. Although this is a small addition to Death Valley’s existing 3.4 million acres, the expansion is larger than seven other national parks. If this were a stand-alone addition to the National Park System, we might well be celebrating the addition of a 62nd national park. In fact, the additional lands are about the size of Bryce Canyon National Park’s 35, 835 acres. So in some ways, this addition to Death Valley National Park is the new national park that no one is talking about. If land of this size had been set aside as a new national park with a new name, it would certainly be headline news. As it is, its a bit of a footnote, but is still worth celebrating.
A bit over 6,000 acres of this addition come from adding an area known as “the Crater” to the Park. If you look closely at a map of Death Valley National Park, The Crater appears as a “doughnut hole” of Bureau of Land Management Land in the northeast corner of the Park. That hole will now be filled in. The remaining 29,000 acres come from expanding the Park southwards to include the land between the current boundaries and the Fort Irwin National Training Center operated by the U.S. military.
Although the expansion of Death Valley is far and away the largest expansion of the National Park System under the Dingell Act, there are a number of other changes to existing units that should not be overlooked:
Acadia National Park benefits by Congress confirming the 2015 addition of land on the Schoodic Peninsula to the Park;
Fort Frederica National Monument in Georgia, where the British solidified their hold on their southern colonies, is expanded by 22%, with the addition of 55 additional acres;
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas, which preserves a Fort that played an important role in the “Bleeding Kansas” conflicts of the antebellum years before the Civil War gets a small boundary expansion;
Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park not only gets a new name, but gets formal recognition of the inclusion of Fort Moultrie and the Charleston Lifesaving Station within the boundaries of the park after 60 years of being unofficially included in the park;
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia, the site of an important battle on General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War, gets a small addition of 8 acres around the Wallis House and Hairston Hill;
Joshua Tree National Park gets a modest expansion of 4,518 acres, plus the authority to establish a new visitor center in the unincorporated town of Joshua Tree, California;
the Davis Bridge Battlefield in Tennessee, which is currently already a Parks Passport cancellation location by virtue of being part of a shared National Historic Landmark designation with the national military park itself,
additional acres around the Fallen Timbers Battlefield site in Tennessee, and
the Russel House Battlefield site on the Tennessee-Mississippi border;
Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota benefits by allowing the Department of the Interior to transfer 49 acres within the current Park boundaries that are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management to National Park Service management, and also authorizes the possibility of up to several dozen additional acres to be donated to the National Park Service by the State of Minnesota;
Beyond the additions to the National Park System, the Dingell Act will also make a major change to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, extending it from its current starting point near St. Louis, Missouri eastward to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2004, during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, Congress directed the National Park Service to conduct a “Special Resource Study” on extending the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail eastward to include routes related to activities occurring both before and after the main 1804-1806 expedition already commemorated by the existing Trail. The National Park Service looked at some 25 different route segments as part of its study, eventually determining that only the routes from Pittsburgh to St. Louis along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers met the criteria for historical significance to be added to the National Historic Trails System.
Interestingly, in researching this post, I discovered that the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail had already certified 12 of these “Eastern Legacy” sites as Trail locations, despite not being located along the then-authorized trail route. The extension of the Lewis & Clark Trail to Pittsburgh will incorporate about half of these sites, but five certified sites will remain outside of the new, extended National Historic Trail:
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia where Lewis procured armaments for the expedition and tested plans for a collapsable boat (which ultimately failed);
the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Lewis received training in the natural sciences from Benjamin Rush, and other Society Members, in preparation for the expedition;
the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Meriwether Lewis received Medical Training from Benjamin Rush and others; and finally,
the Lewis and Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Resources where most of the plant specimens collected by the Corps of Discovery continue to be housed today.
The Dingell Act will also be adding one new Affiliated Area to the National Park System. The Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield in Tennessee, which already has a passport cancellation and an Eastern National-operated bookstore gets elevated to recognition as an Affiliated Area of the National Park System. The 368 acre battlefield is managed by the non-profit American Battlefield Trust, and preserves the site of a Civil War engagement that took place on New Year’s Eve, approximately three and a half months prior to the Battle of Shiloh.
Finally, the Dingell Act authorizes a number of special resource studies for future additions to the National Park System. A special resource study is where the National Park Service formally studies and gathers public input on the national significance, suitability, and feasibility of a proposed addition to the National Park System. As mentioned earlier, it can be a long time between the authorization of a special resource study and a change to the National Park System – 15 years in the case of the eastward extension of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Here are the studies authorized by the Dingell Act:
the President James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee, which would be the first National Park System Unit other than Gateway Arch National Park interpreting the Presidency of James K. Polk;
the Thurgood Marshall School in Baltimore, Maryland, better-known as Public School 103, which the first African-American Supreme Court Justice attended as a youth;
President Street Station, which played a role in the Underground railroad, Baltimore’s Civil War riots, the growth of the railroad industry, and early 20th century immigration (and which also currently has an Eastern National Bookstore and its own Parks Passport cancellation already);
Camp Amache Internment Camp in Granada, Colorado, which would be the fourth Japanese internment camp added to the National Park System;
the George W. Bush childhood home in Midland Texas;
the Ocmulgee River Corridor in Macon, Georgia; and
the route of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike (of Pike’s Peak fame) for consideration as a national historic trail.
These special resource studies will join a slew of studies already underway by the National Park Service, including a study of Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York that was authorized by a piece of stand-alone legislation in October 2018.
The authorizations of special resource studies for the President Street Station and for Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland are particularly notable because Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland first introduced legislation requesting this study in October of 2011. It took more than 7 years to get the legislation enacted, just for a study! The proposal for the study of a Pike National Historic Trail goes all the way back to 2010! That really illustrates how much effort goes into establishing just one new unit of the National Park System – even a small one! Moreover, many of these special resource studies will of course conclude that the proposed addition is either not suitable, not feasible, or even not nationally significant and recommend against inclusion in the National Park System. Although Congress can always make its own decision, an unfavorable recommendation in the special resource study often effectively ends efforts to designate a particular area a national park.
This article is Part III of a three-part series on changes to the National Park System in early 2019. Check out Part I and Part II.
Update: This post was updated after publication to make it clearer that the “new” national park will still be known as Death Valley National Park.
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.”)
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.
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);
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.
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;
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;
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.Share this Parkasaurus post: Follow Parkasaurus: