What's in a name? That's a good question in light of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unsolicited (from the National Park Service) bid to turn Golden Gate National Recreation Area into a "national park."
In pushing for renaming the NRA "Golden Gate National Park(s)," Speaker Pelosi would have us believe anything less than attaching a "national park(s)" suffix to Golden Gate would be a slight.
"In the years since the establishment of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area almost 40 years ago, the park units have collectively been referred to as Golden Gate National Parks. As natural and historic sites have been added to this park system, the need has grown to recognize the system of parks for what they are, which is one of our nation’s great natural treasures," her office says in explaining the proposal.
"This bill recognizes the importance of Golden Gate National Parks to the history and future of our nation and rewards it with a designation befitting its place among the most spectacular national parks in our nation."
Let's forgo, for the moment, debating whether a missile site, maximum security prison, lighthouse, or military outpost are truly "natural treasures." Instead, why not wonder why Speaker Pelosi should stop with Golden Gate in her renaming bid? Surely there must be some other units within the National Park System that are among "our nation's greatest natural treasures."
What about Dinosaur National Monument? Over the years there have been several calls for it to be renamed a national park (in fact, that talk just recently resurfaced.) Talk about natural treasures. Where can you find a richer dinosaur boneyard, one that wrote a significant chapter in the great dinosaur fossil discoveries of this country, if not the world?
Downstate in Utah there's Cedar Breaks National Monument, a rich, 60-million-year-old geologic slice of sedimentary rock known as the Pink Cliffs that seems to have captured all the colors of the rainbow. Heck, the locals have been calling for a name change for a coupla years at least.
Cultural history? Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona offers a richness more than befitting "national park" stature.
"Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, the cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery while exhibiting remarkable preservation integrity that provides outstanding opportunities for study and contemplation," says the Park Service. "Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance."
And while she's at it, perhaps Speaker Pelosi should rid the National Park System of national seashores. "Cape Cod National Park" is much more befitting that spit of sand that curls out from the Massachusetts mainland and which has heretofore been known as Cape Cod National Seashore. You've got natural beauty, whaling history, recreation opportunities. Similar arguments easily could be made for Point Reyes National Seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Gulf Islands National Seashore.
But perhaps Speaker Pelosi is darting off in the wrong direction. Perhaps she should urge Congress to decommission Golden Gate National Recreation Area and auction off the various units to Californians to love, cherish, and market as they see fit. After all, it was Ms. Pelosi who gave birth to the Presido Trust with the explicit instruction to manage the Presidio as a business, and it has, renting out its historic structures to make ends meet.
Just look through the trust's directory of tenants and you'll wonder if you're not examining a business portfolio rather than a national park, let alone NRA: You've got LucasFilm Ltd., of Star Wars fame, building contractors, marriage counselors, investment counselors, even restaurants that can offer an "extensive cocktail menu."
Is this a "national treasure" or a business commons? Is it a "national park" or an industrial complex? Is it cast in the legacy of the National Park System or a bastardization of the Park Service's mission and better defined as a Wharton school of business case study? If the red-ink-washed National Park Service should be managed like a business, aka the Presidio Trust, wouldn't it be wise for the agency to sell off some of its properties to better manage that bottomline?
If Speaker Pelosi's bill goes forward, maybe it needs to be tweaked a tad. Instead of "Golden Gate National Park(s)," what would you think of "Golden Gate National Business"?