In a move tied foremost to economic development, a New York congressman wants the National Park Service to study adding a large swath of the Hudson River Valley to the National Park System.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey is straightforward in explaining his motivation for the requested study, which would focus on a nearly 200-mile-long north-to-south swath of New York. The end result would not be to create one huge national park in the shape of a Yellowstone or Grand Canyon. Rather, the congressman envisions something similar to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a unit that encompass river corridors and covers mostly non-federal land, yet is a permanent units of the NPS, funded and supported through the NPS's annual operating plans.
"The Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area have drawn a lot of positive attention to one of the most beautiful places in the country. Designating the Hudson River Valley as part of the National Park System would take the region to the highest, most prestigious level possible while making the region eligible for an increase in federal resources and support," the Democrat said Monday. "These additional resources could be used toward conservation efforts, historic preservation, tourism promotion and a wide array of economic development activities. With the recognition of the National Park Service, the Hudson River Valley would forever have its place as one of America's great natural and historic treasures."
In order for the Hudson River Valley to become part of the National Park System, a congressionally-authorized NPS study must be conducted. Rep. Hinchey's legislation would authorize such a study from Fort Edward in Washington County down through Westchester County. The study would entail significant outreach to local communities and extensive research and cataloging of the region's resources, his office said in a release. If the study finds that the Hudson River Valley would be a good fit as part of the National Park System, then subsequent legislation would be needed to make that designation. Rep. Hinchey said he would immediately introduce the necessary legislation should the NPS's study deem the Hudson River Valley to be an appropriate addition to the National Park System.
While the NPS would have a lot of discretion during the study process, the congressman's bill outlines specific guidelines to ensure that the study recognizes the realities of the Hudson River Valley. These guidelines, his office said, require the NPS to closely examine park unit models, in particular national river and recreation areas, as well as other landscape protection models, that encompass large areas of non-federal lands within their designated boundaries; foster public and private collaborative arrangements for achieving NPS objectives, and; protect and respect the rights of private land owners.
The congressman pointed out that "designating the Hudson River Valley as a unit of the NPS, would dramatically increase the level of funding and attention that the NPS could invest in the region. Historic sites would be eligible for new aid, local communities would be able to work more effectively with the NPS to protect natural resources, and recreational resources, such as trails, would be enhanced." Hinchey's bill explicitly states that any future NPS designation must respect the rights of private land owners. There would be no forced land acquisition activities permitted, he said.
"The Hudson River Valley is home to some of the most unique cultural, historic, natural, recreation and scenic resources in the entire country. As a unit of the National Park Service, we would be able to more prominently feature and protect these precious resources for this and future generations of New Yorkers and all Americans," Rep. Hinchey said. "Additionally, living within a nationally recognized park service unit would likely enhance the attractiveness of that region and properties located within it because of the significant attention and resources that accompany this designation."