Andrew Raynor Dover NH
Philip Bryce, director of the NH Division of Parks and Recreation, is today’s guest blogger. – Ed.
In 1983, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and environmentalist Wallace Stegner proclaimed, “The national parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than at our worst.”
Tomorrow (Aug. 25), New Hampshire State Parks celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
On this day in 1916, Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act and upon its approval by President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service was established to oversee the 14 national parks and 21 national monuments that existed at the time.
Over the past century, the National Park System expanded to now include 412 official units covering more than 84 million acres.
Yellowstone was the first national park, created in 1872. The story of its founding is an interesting one, as detailed in this excerpt from Parks and Recreation magazine.
In 1870, the members of the Washburn-Langford-Doan expedition were traveling south of Helena, Mont. to witness the wondrous collection of thermal peculiarities bubbling up through the Earth’s crust. At the last evening’s encampment, the conversation turned to how the area might be divvied up among the expedition’s profit-minded entrepreneurs.
But one member of the party, a lawyer named Cornelius Hedges, suggested a higher purpose for Yellowstone’s thermal wonders: They should be protected, he said, in the form of a national park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. The idea caught on and, soon thereafter, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act creating Yellowstone National Park.
The Organic Act that created the NPS in 1916 to oversee these parks defined its mission as “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The charge was to protect and preserve the nation’s “crown jewels,” while simultaneously making them available for public use. This dual and somewhat conflicting mandate has been the source of ongoing debate throughout NPS history.
The NPS has a presence in our state through a number of programs; most notably for us is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides grants to communities for recreational projects and to us to supplement our capital funds from the legislature for our own projects. It is also responsible for two NPS properties: Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site and the Appalachian Trail.
For more information, visit the NPS website.