November 10, 1978, is a Date Writ Large in National Park System History

Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia was one of the national parks established by the omnibus National Parks and Recreation Act of November 10, 1978. Photo by Midnightdreary via Wikipedia.

writ large -- Signified, expressed, or embodied in a greater or more prominent magnitude or degree.

November 10, 1978, is a date writ large in the history of the National Park System. It was on that date that Jimmy Carter signed the National Parks and Recreation Act (S. 191) into law. President Carter’s accompanying statement acknowledged the significance of the event:

It is with great pleasure that I sign the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. This bill is the most significant conservation legislation to pass the 95th Congress. This new law reaffirms our Nation's commitment to the preservation of our heritage, a commitment which strives to improve the quality of the present by our dedication to preserving the past and conserving our historical and natural resources for our children and grandchildren. It honors those who helped to shape and develop this Nation; it acknowledges our need to receive strength and sustenance from natural beauty; and it addresses the pressing need to improve recreational opportunities in our urban areas.


Specifically, this bill:

—Establishes 15 new [units] in the National Park System and authorizes increased land acquisition and other improvements in numerous existing units;

—Designates 1,974,005 acres in 8 National Parks as wilderness;

—Authorizes $725 million over the next 5 years to renovate recreation facilities in urban areas;

—Establishes 8 new rivers as components of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System; and

—Designates 17 new rivers to be studied for addition to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

There are many familiar names on the roster of national parks and other federally managed lands designated, redesignated, or established via the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. (Curiously, President Carter’s accompanying statement omitted a good deal of vital information, did not distinguish between new national parks and redesignated ones, and did not identify federal lands not placed under NPS management. It also contained a serious typo [the term “traits” substituted for units].)

New National Parks

Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve (Washington)

Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Friendship Hill National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (Louisiana) [Although this was technically a new park,” its designation did not increase the number of units in the National Park System Here’s what happened. The War of 1812-themed Chalmette Monument and Grounds was established on March 4, 1907, transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933, redesignated Chalmette National Historical Park on August 10, 1939, and incorporated into the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve that was authorized on November 10, 1978.]

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (Hawaii)

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)

New River Gorge National River (West Virginia)

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site (Texas)

Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River (Texas) [An approximately 69-mile segment of this National Park System unit lies within the borders of Big Bend National Park.”]

Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site (New York)

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Texas)

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (California)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

Thomas Stone National Historic Site (Maryland)

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreation River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Redesignations

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas) [Redesignation of Alibates Flint Quarries and Texas Panhandle Pueblo Culture National Monument, which was established on August 21, 1965.]

Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland); [Redesignation of Antietam National Battlefield Site, acquired by transfer from the War Department on August 10, 1933]

Badlands National Park (South Dakota) [Redesignation of Badlands National Monument, which was authorized March 4, 1929, and established January 25, 1939.]

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (Hawaii) [Redesignation of City of Refuge National Historical Park, which was established July 26, 1955.]

Affiliated Areas and National Historic Trails

Iditarod National Historic Trail (Alaska) [BLM coordinates management, which is shared by various state and federal agencies]

New Jersey Pinelands National Preserve [later Pinelands National Reserve] (New Jersey) [Affiliated Area managed by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission]

Oregon National Historic Trail (Missouri to Oregon) [Although administered by the NPS, this trail it is not counted as a unit of the National Park System.]

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Missouri to Oregon) [Although administered by the NPS, this trail it is not counted as a unit of the National Park System.]

The National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 was not universally applauded. In fact, it drew a heap of criticism from people who believed that some of the national park designations (including the Maggie Walker and Thomas Stone National Historic Sites) were of dubious merit. Some critics even called the National Parks and Recreation Act a prime example of “park barrel” legislation purposely designed to help Congressmen deliver federal benefits to their constituents and improve their chances for reelection. Be that as it may, all of the designations have remained in force for the past 30 years.

Fine print: S. 791, the National Parks and Recreation Act, became Public Law 95625.