Whenever I visit a place operated by the National Park Service, it never fails….there is confusion among my fellow park goers as to if this is a “Park” or not. A recent visit to the Apostle Islands, a “national lakeshore”, prompted me to find out just where the distinctions lie in the park service classifications. It is understandable that there would be some confusion in this arena, because our National Park service manages 417 parks and sites with areas covering 84 million acres. Within the 417 sites, there are 58 of those that are classified as a “National Park”. When people think of the National Park Service, they usually think of just the “biggies”: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, The Great Smokey Mountains. These are fantastic places to visit, but there is so much more to the NPS than just the 58 parks. Whenever you see the arrowhead logo, you know you are in for a treat. There are just so many things to discover and experience. So for clarification, the National Park Service website (www.nps.gov) has provided a few guidelines to help us understand the classifications:
“–Generally, a national park contains a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.
–A national monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource. It is usually smaller than a national park and lacks its diversity of attractions.
–In 1974, Big Cypress and Big Thicket were authorized as the first national preserves. This category is established primarily for the protection of certain resources. Preserving shoreline areas and offshore islands, the national lakeshores and national seashores focus on the preservation of natural values while at the same time providing water-oriented recreation.
–National rivers and wild and scenic riverways preserve freeflowing streams and their immediate environment with at least one outstandingly remarkable natural, cultural, or recreational value.
–National scenic trails are generally long distance footpaths winding through areas of natural beauty. National historic trails recognize original trails or routes of travel of national historical significance.
Although best known for its great scenic parks, over half the areas of the National Park System preserve places and commemorate persons, events, and activities important in the nation’s history.
–In recent years, national historic site has been the title most commonly applied by Congress in authorizing the addition of such areas to the National Park System. A wide variety of titles—national military park, national battlefield park, national battlefield site, and national battlefield—has been used for areas associated with American military history.
–The title national memorial is most often used for areas that are primarily commemorative.”
So there you have it…just goes to show you that the NPS is involved in so many ways of preservation, education and recreation for many visitors at a diversity of sites. Another reason, the park or monument designations are so important is because policies, funding legislation and land usage can and ARE profoundly affected by the designation. For more commentary how that is currently affecting the parks in the recent administration, see my blog entitled: “Parks and Politics: Trying (so very hard) to keep politics out of the discussion.” Published 12/5/2017Link:https://travelingamericablog.com/2017/12/05/parks-politics-trying-so-very-hard-to-keep-politics-out-of-the-discussion/
So look for that arrowhead in your travels and Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Categories: Our National Parks