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Pruning the Parks: Six National Parks Acquired via Transfer in 1933 Were Subsequently Abolished


Castle Pinckney, a tiny island in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, used to be a national park. Photo by aconaway1 via Flickr.

The National Park System grew by 69 units via the Reorganization of 1933, which was signed August 10, 1933. However, six of the “1933T” (1933 transfer) national parks were subsequently abolished.

Among the 12 natural area parks and 57 historical parks transferred to the National Park System via the Reorganization of 1933 were various parks that, for one reason or another, did not belong in the system. It took time to sort this out. The first pruning of the 1933T parks occurred in 1944, and by 1956 five more had been delisted.

The first 1933T park to be delisted was Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee. This national cemetery was originally established under the War Department by Army general order on Christmas Day, 1863. An act of Congress returned it to the War Department on December 7, 1944. See this site for additional information about Civil War national cemeteries.

Five year later, on September 7, 1949, Congress transferred the Father Millet Cross National Monument to the state of New York. Situated on the Fort Niagara Military Reservation, the Father Millet Cross unit had been established under War Department administration by presidential proclamation on September 5, 1925. The focal feature of the park was the site where Father Pierre Millet, a Jesuit priest, had erected a cross on Good Friday, 1688, to invoke God's mercy for the starving, plague-stricken garrison of historic Fort de Nonville. The original cross had long since disappeared.

On August 3, 1950, Congress pruned two more 1933T’s, both in Colorado. Wheeler National Monument, which had been originally established under the Forest Service by presidential proclamation on December 7, 1908, was returned to the Forest Service. Also returned to the Forest Service was Holy Cross National Monument, which had been originally established under the Forest Service by presidential proclamation on May 11, 1929. The Wheeler site focused on volcanic ash deposits deemed of insufficient quality for national park status. The Holy Cross site, which was very lightly visited, focused on a geologic feature deemed to have been so badly eroded that it was no longer exceptional.

Georgia’s New Echota Marker, which was originally authorized under the War Department by act of Congress on May 28, 1930, was transferred to the state of Georgia via on act of Congress on September 21, 1950. Located near Calhoun, Georgia, the marker was erected to honor Cherokees who died on the Trail of Tears. The site was deemed to be of state park caliber.

The last 1933T unit to be pruned was South Carolina's Castle Pinckney National Monument, a small island in Charleston harbor that had housed a Civil War prisoner of war camp and artillery position. Established under the War Department by presidential proclamation Oct. 15, 1924, Castle Pinckney was transferred to the state of South Carolina after an act of Congress on March 29, 1956, reclassified it as surplus property.

The 63 other 1933T parks have survived the test of time and are still in the system.


There are still others today that could be pruned, producing benefits for both the park system and the individual units in question.

Glad to have some historical perspective on this issue.

Didn't Platt National Park get delisted into an NRA?

Anyone remember Sully's Hill National Park or Lewis and Clark Caverns?

Now as time went some sites actual were of national value and later became National Landmarks, namely the one in Georgia. I am not a fan of delisting but I will conseed in some areas. For example, the park I volunteer at, Boston Harbor Islands, should be both expanded and downsized, mainly two or three islands should be looked at to be delisted and the park should be expanded to include the ship wrecks and undisturbed areas of the sea floor. Also, In case any one is wondering the park is important because of its military history, the fact it is one of (I think) 4 drowned drumlin fields in the world, and the fact that they hold the oldest human remains ever found in New England (4,000 year old human remains were found on one of the islands).

I have no problems delisting, as pruning a tree sometimes increases the overall health of the plant.

Unless they've changed the rules, archeological sites don't qualify for National Park status solely on the basis of local or regional antiquity. Those types of sites come under the protective umbrella of other agencies and Lord knows the NPS can't afford to be in the business of protecting every site of presumed historical import, be it of recent vintage or pre-Cambrian Era.

It the NPS planning on going subterranean? I know their budget is........


Early in 1970 I shipped out of skid row Seattle on the Greyhound Line to work the Burlington Northern railroad tie-gang refurbishing track through Montana.

While our camp-cars were parked on a siding near at a spot called Whitehorse (or Whitehall?) along the Jefferson River, I spent off-time & weekends hiking down into the river-canyon, and overland into the surrounding hills.

One day I was a few hours back in the hills, came around a bend and here below me was an out-of-place fancy asphalt road, and off in the distance some kind of facility. I walked up the road and it was the Lewis & Clark Caverns, then a Nat'l Park. I had no inkling it was there!

Montana now has a nice webpage for the Caverns. Photographs, information, maps ... and links for all the little & big critters of the area, into a Field Guide they have posted. (Notice that they are using hydrologic data-layers for their distribution-maps ... hmm!)

But I agree, the cavern was just as well handled as a local feature, and nothing in particular indicated a need for Federal involvement. (I'm one of those who feel that we are better off if the Federal echelon handles only those matters which really require centralized authority, and all other matters be left to lower/local authorities & jurisdictions).

It was said the Native Tribes (and earlier inhabitants) hadn't used the cavern, and didn't even know about it ... something that always seemed unusual to me. Maybe more has come to light over the years...

I was really glad to spend a season in Montana!

I think to help solve the delisting problem the National Natural Landmark system needs to be reworked, because there are many places of national value that should be honored and could help greatly from this but probably would not make such a great National Park. Also, a local and regional designation should be created as well.

Other parks just need to be "refocused". For example, the NPCA believes that the Boston Harbor Islands should focus on there Native American history and as being used as concenstration camps (as it turns out almost all of them were) for Native Americans after the King Phillp's War. The park is sort of littered with Indian burial grounds. However, for better or worse the park is sort of a "new idea" because NPS does not run the park, has a spending limit, and only oversees and cordinates operations at the park. As for what I mean by worse one of the islands was developed as a sewer treatment plant when it arguably shouldn't have.

Beyond the Parks that were pruned in the 1930s, there is also at least one that should have been made a national park but wasn't. The area known now as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park became a 600,000 acre California state park instead and is said to be the second largest state park in the country. The story I've heard from the Park's foundation and research institute is that the area needed to be protected in the early 1930s and was being considered for a national park. But Congress was too busy with the Depression for the necessary designation process to happen. So it missed protection not because it wasn't national park quality, but because the timing of when it needed to be protected was off.

The sad part about it missing out on national park designation is that had it become a national park, it would have been spared what it's going through right now. Despite there being abundant viable alternatives, a local utility company wants to build a high-voltage transmission line through the heart of the park. It would go right through state-designated wilderness, federally designated critical habitat for endangered species, Indian burial grounds, you name it. Because it's a state park, not a national park, there's no guarantee that the line won't go through. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a National Natural Landmark and a UNESCO world desert biosphere reserve site, but none of those designations offer the protection of national park status.

"Because it's a state park, not a national park, there's no guarantee that the line won't go through."

There's no guarantee that NPS designation would help Anza-Borrego, either. The power line issue you reference has also been a threat to national parks, including Joshua Tree National Park. In January, it came to light that the federal government wanted to build a corridor through this and other federally protected areas. NPS and federal designation alone is not a "guarantee" of preservation; in fact, some argue just the opposite. Had the NPS acquired the state park, perhaps they would have built a massive visitor center over one of the burial grounds just like the NPS recently tried to build a massive structure in the MIDDLE of the Little Bighorn Battlefield site.

Several years ago Bonneville Power built a huge transmission line across Zion National Park which replaced and upgraded an older one. There was a great deal of fuss and bother by a variety of groups opposed to it who had argued that for a few dollars more the power line could've been placed underground along the highway right-of-way leading to Springdale and Zion HQ. Ultimately the NPS was most compliant with the power company and pooh-poohed all those who were concerned about the impacts this large and unsightly eyesore would generate upon a mostly unvisited corner of the park.

You can see it today on your way into Zion along Hwy. 9, as you crest the hill west of Rockville beneath the ramparts of Mt. Kinesava. There for all to see is the much vaunted "protection of national park status" writ large upon the Utah landscape.

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