National Park Service turns 100
4/15/2016 Volume XLIX, No. 14
Steve Krakauer of Basking Ridge is on a mission of the most enjoyable kind: Visiting all of America’s national parks, from Acadia to Zion.
“I’ve hit 41 of the 59 so far,” said Steve, an avid outdoorsman who loves hiking, biking, sailing and nature photography.
Steve’s quest began about five years ago, when he met a fellow traveler at Big Bend National Park in Texas whose goal was to fill a “passport” of visits to every national park. Steve had already been to quite a few – starting with a 1980s rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – but the challenge of seeing them all appealed to him.
Steve keeps a checklist and is happily planning future journeys, including one to Channel Islands National Park in California later this year and a trip in 2017 to the farthest from New Jersey, American Samoa National Park in the Pacific.
There’s never a bad time to visit our national parks, but right now is especially great. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service in August 1916. As a centennial project, the National Park Service has launched a new initiative called “Find Your Park” to inspire people to connect with and enjoy America’s national parks.
Writer and environmentalist Wallace Stegner famously called national parks “the best idea we’ve ever had.” He added: “Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
Though the National Park Service is turning a century, some national parks are even older. Yellowstone was technically the first, established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. However, the land for Yosemite National Park in California was acquired even earlier – in 1864, during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.
Because the East Coast was settled long before the west, it contains fewer national parks. New Jerseyans have a long trip to get to even the closest national parks: Shenandoah in Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Acadia in Maine.
But what New Jersey lacks in national parks, it makes up for in other National Park Service properties: national historic parks, national recreation areas, national historic and natural landmarks, national scenic trails and national Wild & Scenic rivers.
Three highlights in New Jersey include the Morristown National Historic Park, Thomas Edison National Historic Park and Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. New Jersey also has the Sandy Hook unit of Gateway National Recreation Area – one of the nation’s most popular national recreation sites – and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
The Statue of Liberty National Monument, including Ellis Island, is partly in New Jersey. This state we’re in also has a section of a National Scenic Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Pinelands National Biosphere Reserve. National Natural Landmarks in the Garden State include the Palidades cliffs, Troy Meadows, the Great Swamp, Sunfish Pond and the William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest.
And when it comes to history, New Jersey leads the way. In addition to our three national historic parks, we have the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, 58 national historic landmarks, and 1,673 listings on the National Register of Historic Places.
This year, celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by visiting its parks, near and far. You’ll be glad you did!
For inspiration, check out the Find Your Park website at http://findyourpark.com. To learn about National Park Service sites in New Jersey, go to https://www.nps.gov/state/nj/index.htm.
And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.