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Congress Considering New Parks


Is a 91-acre unit of the National Park System whose focal point is a shimmering arch worthy of "national park" designation?/NPS

James Polk's name doesn't often come up when the question of who were the most famous presidents is raised. But a congressman from Tennessee believes Polk, the country's 11th president, is deserving of a National Park System unit.

Some might say Polk was an over-achiever, actually. He promised to serve just one term, and that's what he did. But during those four years he not only led the United States into war against Mexico, but he worked out a deal with the British that put Oregon into American hands, reformed the banking system, and, as a result of that war with Mexico, obtained California and much of the Southwest for the country.

Now U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais wants the National Park Service to consider making Polk's Columbia, Tennessee, home part of the National Park System. On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee will consider that request. It also will consider a bill offered by Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri to redesignate Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis as Gateway Arch National Park.

The Senate already has approved similar legislation offered by Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, both of Missouri.

The National Park Service, in the past, has not been keen on creating a "Gateway Arch National Park."

The Department of the Interior supports renaming the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to highlight its iconic feature, the Gateway Arch," Robert Vogel, acting deputy director of the Park Service, told a Senate committee last July. "However, we recommend designating the site as a national monument, to be known as 'Gateway Arch National Monument,' rather than a national park, in order to be more consistent with National Park Service naming conventions. 

"... National parks contain a variety of resources and encompass large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources. The existing 59 designated national parks protect at a minimum thousands of acres each, and some span millions of acres.  At only 91 federal acres, we believe that the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is too small and limited in the range of resources the site protects and interprets to be called a national park.


James Polk is the best 1-term President in US history.

Several lesser Presidents have sites, strange he doesn't have one already.

I am all in favor of creating more parks, reserves, monuments, parkways, management areas, etc. on a national and state basis, but...   With the existing $10B - $13B backlog in deferred maintenance and operations shortfalls in our existing National Parks, Monuments and other federal public facilities, I think it inappropriate to identify - and attempt to fund - new national parks or monuments.  Let's focus on caring for existing public lands and facilities before adding more.

Basic national park history teaches us that had the public land NOT BEEN DESIGNATED EARLY 
as a national monument or park, the landscape and its natural resources would have been trashed by 
wealthy private interests.
Consider Muir Woods N.M. in the San Francisco Bay area now so popular, reservations need to be 
arranged for parking.  
Had Muir Woods not been designated 

("On January 9, 1908, with just the stroke of a pen, President Theodore Roosevelt used the 

powers of the 
Antiquities Act to create Muir Woods National Monument. William Kent, who donated the 
land for the 
monument, requested that it be named for noted conservationist John Muir."
would have been clearcut and the land today probably would be a wealthy gated residential neighborhood.
Consider Redwood N.P.'s History: many opportunities existed for a large
old growth redwood park but were effectively ignored through the 1950s  and by
the time, the North Group of the Sierra Club secured the remaining
fragmented old growth as a
national park in  Oct. 1968,  most of the Redwood
Creek watershed was being massively clearcut.
Securing the public land and private land early for public access
faces the reality of a narrow window of opportunity when public
funding always will be minimal.  

    "Then indecision brings its own delays, 
          And days are lost lamenting over lost days. 
          Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; 
          What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; 
          Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

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