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National Park Service Continues Healthy Growth

Anyone who might think that our federal parklands are a static set of national treasures rather than a dynamic, expanding collection of great scenic, historic, geologic and recreational sites wisely being set aside for the use of future generations is happily mistaken.

However, those of us in the travel and tourism industry should be proud that under the Antiquities Act of 1906, also used by most of his predecessors since Theodore Roosevelt, President Barack Obama has created 16 new national monuments (NMs) since he took office in January 2009. It is widely expected that the president will continue to be actively involved in protecting additional sites throughout the remainder of his second term.

Even those critical of Congress should be aware that as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, our senators and representatives also authorized seven brand-new units of the National Park Service (NPS), additions to land and facilities for nine existing NPS units, continued funding for 15 National Heritage Areas and designation of three new National Wild and Scenic Rivers, plus studies to determine how to progress with the designation of 20 potential new (or additions to existing) NPS sites.

In the east, NPS units designated by the president are Fort Monroe NM in Virginia, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad NM in Maryland, First State NM in Delaware, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers NM in Ohio and Pullman Historic District NM in Illinois. Two new western NPS sites are California’s Cesar Chavez NM and Hawaii’s Honouliuli Internment Camp NM (HI).

New units created by Congress are Blackstone River National Historical Park in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Tule Springs Fossil Beds NM in Nevada, Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico, a World War I Memorial near the White House, Coltsville National Historic Park in Connecticut and Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in New York. The new Manhattan Project National Historic Park will have locations in three states: Washington, New Mexico and Tennessee.

Other enhancements have been authorized for First State NM in Delaware and Pennsylvania; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad NM in Maryland, which will become a National Historic Park; Oregon Caves NM in Oregon; Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania; Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin; Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in New Jersey; Lower East Side Tenement National Historic Site in New York; San Antonio Missions National Historic Park in Texas; and finally, Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.

Although some of these sites are currently operational, either fully or in part, many are not, and depending on funding, it may be as long as five or 10 years before they offer complete visitor facilities. Check or the other agency sites for further information. And regardless of your travel plans, please don’t fail to offer one or, it is hoped, more special tours in 2016 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS.