By Brenna Goggin, Environmental Advocate
In 1991, President George H.W Bush designated National Park Week which is being celebrated April 17th-23rdthis year. Thanks to the recent addition of President Clinton’s Birthplace in Hope, Arkansas, there are now 394 units, making up over 80 million acres in the National Park system. Every state and territory in the United States, including American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have National Parks, except Delaware. As the first state to sign the Constitution, Senator Carper has been working since 2003 to establish a Delaware National Park. The question has always been where? The process for establishing a National Park is arduous and areas of interest have to meet very stringent requirements. Many states, including Delaware, have beautiful state parks and preserves, that while may be suitable for a National Park, are already well cared for by other agencies. In 2007, President Bush signed legislation authorizing the NPS to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to determine whether the creation of a NPS unit in Delaware is appropriate.
From the beginning of our nation’s history, Delaware has played an important role. European settlers built fortifications such as Fort Christina, established in Wilmington in 1638 by settlers to protect Swedish and Finnish settlements and Fort Zwaanendael to protect the Dutch in Lewes. Additionally, we were the first state to sign the Constitution. On November 24, 2008, the NPS released a study of its SRS finding that a park in Delaware should focus on our early settlements and our lead in the “birth of a nation.” The SRS concluded that a National Historical Park would be the most appropriate kind of park in Delaware.
Through conversations with land owners, non-profits, and government agencies, the National Park Service made a final recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior outlining the scope of the park. In 2011, Senator Carper and Congressman Carney released legislation in both the Senate and the House respectfully. S. 323 and H.R. 624 outline what will be included in the National Park and gives the NPS the authority to establish a park in Delaware without a monetary appropriation. Included in the proposed National Historical Site is:
New Castle County-
The Old Sheriff’s House
Fort Christina National Historic Landmark
Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark
Old New Castle Courthouse
John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Landmark
Ryves Holt House
The Delaware Nature Society encourages you to enjoy anyone of the over 25 National Park sites in our area including Independence Hall, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the National Mall, or the C&O Canal. For more information, please visit www.nps.gov.