Monday, June 27, 2011

Is the National Park Service experiencing mission creep?

Kurt Repanshek of the National Park Traveler site posted an article yesterday titled; Is There A New Unit of The National Park System Coming To Your Neighborhood?

I bring this article to your attention because the National Park Service is looking to possibly add as many as 40 new park units to the NPS System. Nearly every single one of these units are historical sites.

I have to ask though, in this time of mounting public debt, and limited resources allocated to existing national parks, should the NPS really be taking on additional properties?

Let me invoke two names: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. No, I'm not making the argument that these proposed sites be excluded from the NPS based on the limited government principles they espoused during the founding of the country. Although I believe those arguments to be valid in this instance, I'm actually citing their names in relation to their homes. Although both of these founding fathers loom far larger in the historical context of this country than many, if not all of the proposed units, neither Montpelier or Monticello are within the national park system. Neither is Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.

I'm sure there's historical value in every one of the proposed sites, thus making their preservation necessary. However, why not put the burden of preservation on the state, county or private investors? If each of these sites are indeed worthy of preservation, shouldn't they be able to stand on their own without national park status? Shouldn't they be able to attract enough visitors and donations from the people that place the highest value on these places to ensure their preservation?

My point is that if Montpelier, Monticello, Mount Vernon and countless other historical sites can stand on their own without the help of national park status, why can't these proposed units do the same?

To me it seems that the National Park Service is deviating much too far from its mission.



Wendy said...

I used to live down the road from Pickett's Mill Battlefield. It used to be run by the NPS, but it was turned over to the state of GA about 8 or 9 years ago (I think?) and now it's a state park. I think if local people are interested in preserving a site, it gets preserved. You just have to build up interest.

I agree with you about using their resources on park units they already have and not adding more. We just can't afford it at this time.

Alex said...

I agree Jeff - Well said!!

Anonymous said...

Mount Vernon and several other similar sites are rather well-maintained and have been for a while.

I remember going to Gunston Hall (George Mason's home, not too far down the road from Mount Vernon actually), which is well-taken care of. At the time they were changing things around, specifically the gardens. They were making them less "pretty" but more historically accurate, which is awesome. I went with a college class and I may have been the only one who thought that was a good idea.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...


I would have to agree with you. One of the reasons you preserve historical places is so that people can see them as they were.

I visited Montpelier, James Madison's home, a few years ago when they were undergoing major renovations. They basically were gutting the interior because one of the families (the duPont's) that lived there around the early 1900s, I believe, made some pretty massive changes to the house while they lived there. So, even though it was a little messy while we were there, I totally support the effort to return the house to the way Madison had it.