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Around The Parks: Audio Tour At Paterson Great Falls NHP, Monumental Politics, Death Valley's Organ


Audio tours at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, potential political tinkering with the Antiquities Act, and reviving the organ at Scotty's Castle in Death Valley National Park are among the items in this week's roundup from around the parks.

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Though a relative newcomer to the National Park System, that doesn't mean this historical park trails other parks in technology. This Wednesday the park will debut a free app for its Mill Mile Walking Tour, a self-guided audio tour for park visitors intended to teach about the remarkable history, geology, social and cultural importance of the area around the Paterson Great Falls.

The audio tour is narrated by newscaster Brian Williams and is enriched by the voices of luminaries in government, sports, and the arts, including President Barack Obama, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., Giants football star Victor Cruz, Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz, and historian Ron Chernow. Some of Paterson’s leaders and youthful residents also lend their voices to the audio.

The inaugural tour begins at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday following a brief program at Overlook Park, a portion of the Park that overlooks the Falls. The walking tour includes ten stops and concludes at the Paterson Museum with a reception that ends at 7:30 p.m. Members of the Great Falls Youth Corps will be stationed along the tour route to assist participants and answer questions.

Beginning April 24, the downloadable app will be available on both iTunes and Google Play. It is compatible with iPhones, Android phones and iPod touch. An audio version of the tour may also be accessed from any phone by dialing 973-582-0654. The companion brochure for the Mill Mile tour will be available as well.

“I take great pride in sharing the story of the Silk City and am excited that this new project will help tell the story to visitors from across the country and around the world,” said U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. “The Mill Mile audio tour will highlight what makes my hometown of Paterson so special — from our beautiful Great Falls to our rich history as the first planned city of innovation. Paterson represents the best of America’s past and future, and I’m excited that this project will help more local families and visitors enjoy it and learn about its legacy and beauty.”

Mill Mile is an educational initiative of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, a non-profit organization that helped launch Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

The centerpiece of the tour is the spectacular wonder of the Great Falls. Towering 77 feet high, the falls are 300 feet wide. Up to two billion gallons of water rush over the Falls into the Passaic River every day, making it the second-most-powerful waterfall east of the Mississippi, just after Niagara Falls. The walking tour’s uniqueness is that it combines the Great Falls’ natural beauty with the history of Paterson and its significance to the nation’s history.

For more information on the Mill Mile Walking Tour, visit this site.

Politicians Being Political

Politicians who disagree with the president's ability to create a national monument by utilizing the Antiquities Act are trying to push legislation through Congress to abolish that path.

Eight bills were discussed last week during a hearing at the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. Of the eight, five call for state-specific prohibitions of the use of the president’s use of the Antiquities Act, with more sweeping restrictions proposed in the remaining three.

“We need a formal process to ensure the public has an opportunity to participate in the discussions and decisions surrounding new federal land designations, including national monuments,” said Chairman Rob Bishop, a Republican from Utah. “Without legislation, there is no way to ensure the public is included in the process and that future designations are done openly and fairly. There are so many concerns regarding the way the century-old Antiquities Act is used today by presidents and therefore, it is imperative that we begin to consider improvements to the law that will safeguard the interests and priorities of all Americans. I was particularly concerned by the Department of Interior’s insinuation that the president is above formal public process. This is hardly the case and I find this mentality very troubling, especially since that style of governance has historically failed in other countries.”

The hearing came in the wake of President Obama's use of the Antiquities Act to set aside five national monuments, including the first unit of the National Park System to be located in Delaware. Contrary to Mr. Bishop's assertions, backers of those monuments applauded the president's actions.

And not only have Delaware officials long sought a unit of the National Park System, but the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, along with northern New Mexico leaders, pushed back against the Utah Republican, claiming he, as chairman of the House's subcommittee on national parks and public lands, had refused to schedule a hearing on the proposal.

“Contrary to Rep. Bishop’s statements, the idea of protecting Rio Grande del Norte has been widely discussed and strongly supported by the people who live in the affected region,” said Max Trujillo of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Rep. Bishop’s reaction seems guided by his own anti-conservation ideology and ignores the reality that President Obama’s action comes only after years of inaction by Congress. The president is simply using the authority granted by law to give this region what local residents have sought for so long.”

Also defending the president’s use of the Antiquities Act tlast week were the National Parks Conservation Association and Cesar Chavez Foundation, which expressed their support for recent designations, and concern for bills that stand to weaken the law.

“The Chavez family, the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the farm worker movement are deeply concerned over legislation to limit the president’s ability to create new national monuments,” said Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “Any proposal to prohibit or restrict the president’s authority to bestow the honor of a new National Park site to commemorate important American figures and movements that strengthened our democracy should be opposed.”

Added Kristen Brengel, the NPCA's legislative director, “President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act has helped to measurably diversify our National Park System. We must ensure that all Americans see their ancestor’s history reflected in the System. When opportunities to bring superlative examples of our nation’s diverse history present themselves, such as with the Fort Monroe, Cesar Chavez, Colonel Charles Young, and Harriet Tubman National Monuments; and when an overwhelming public support is shown for a designation like the First State National Monument - we need to seize, not squander them.”

In 2009, the National Parks Second Century Commission issued a report of recommendations for the National Park Service to consider, as the agency heads towards its centennial in 2016. The commission was chaired by Senators Howard Baker and Bennett Johnston, and included a distinguished group of Americans. One of the report’s lead recommendations was that the National Park System needs to become more diverse, reflecting our nation’s evolving history.

“Last October, President Obama proclaimed before 7,000 people the National Chavez Center at La Paz in Keene, California as the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the 398th unit of the National Park Service. Now the story of my father, Cesar Chavez, and the contributions of thousands of Latinos, immigrants and others who joined La Causa over the decades is being shared with all of America through the National Park Service. Our country is only strengthened when the stories of farm workers and Latinos are shared with all of our fellow citizens,” said Mr. Chavez.

Of the nine national monuments that President Obama has designated to date, five are managed by the National Park System: Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia, Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio, First State National Monument in Delaware, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. Each of the monument designations enjoyed widespread support by community leaders and elected officials, leading up to their declaration.

Sound Of Music From Death Valley

Late last month came word that the Scotty's Castle Welte-Mignon theater pipe organ was out of commission. Without the motor to blow air through the pipes, the Upper Music Room fell silent. This was a very uncertain time for the Death Valley Natural History Association. Without the organ functioning, the association would be unable to hold the single biggest annual fundraising we have for the organ maintenance, the Scotty's Castle Organ Concert.

At its last meeting the association's board voted for an increase in additional aid to cover the cost of repairing the organ and we are happy to report that the organ is already back up and running! The concert will continue as planned.

Scotty's Castle is still in need of donations. If you'd like to see special preservation and restoration projects funded at Scotty's Castle, then the association could use your help! Please consider donating to the Scotty's Castle Historic Preservation Fund.

Remember acknowledgement opportunities exist for donations of $100 or more. You can have a name of your choice listed in the flipbook located adjacent to the wall inside the Furnace Creek Visitors Center. Donations of $1000 or more can have a name placed upon the wall.


Rick - Once again you totally misconstrue the facts. While I have indicated that something that isn't legal or isn't Consitutional shouldn't be done (without changing the law or the Constitution) I have never suggested that just because something is "legal", it is right. In fact, if anything I have done just the opposite.

That goes both ways, Owen.

Lee, thank you for all your posts on National Parks Traveler. I'm proud to have worked beside you during our stint in Yosemite.

Ah, ec, you are always quick to point out in your numerous posts what is "legal". Now, after reading Jim's post, you fall back on what is "right", a far more slippery slope. What is
"right" for me may not be "right" for you. I am sure you understand the difference.


Kurt put forth the most important question..."who are the locals". I think that if the land is not federal to start with, than the state includes the locals. But if the land is Federal then we all are the locals.

Yes, but Utah also has the lowest percentage of voter turnout in the nation. Most people blame it on the GOP's caucus system that fools many people into believing that their votes don't count. There is also a pervading myth that you can't be a good Mormon and vote for a Democrat. It's powerful enough to discourage many who are capable of thinking independently. Utah's Congressional districts are among the most heavily gerrymandered in any state. Use Google to call up any number of articles from the Salt Lake Tribune and even the conservative, church-owned Deseret News on the subject. Utah is a place like no other. (And I'm LDS.)

It's very interesting to note that polls of Utah residents find at least a majority of citizens support the idea of a new national monument surrounding Canyonlands.

Also, apparently, a majority of voters in Rob Bishop's district vote to keep him in office.

No, justin, I was mainly referring to the fuss over the word appropriated. Yours and Kurt's comments about proximity and state rule are very valid considerations. Without going back and re-reading all your comments, I think I agree with virtually all you've said above.

As someone else pointed out, when we speak of a national treasure, such as Everglades, it may be something else again. I have never, and probably never will visit Everglades. But because it is a national treasure, I think I should have some input into its fate. The same is true of the national treasures contained in Utah. Shouldn't such things as irreplaceable petroglyphs and prehistoric dwellings, sweeping and mostly untouched vistas and other precious attributes of Utah's already public lands be open to input from people like you or others who don't live within this state?

For that matter, in an increasingly global world, who is to say how close is "local?" Will we not all be diminished if places like Angkor Wat, or Chitzin Itza, the Great Pyramids, Antarctica, or Iceland's geyser fields are somehow destroyed? Will we not all lose something when the last African elephant or snow leopard is poached? LIkewise, won't citizens of Britain or Africa or even the most poverty stricken citizen of Bangladesh lose something if Yellowstone is destroyed by geothermal production in areas around it? In this world, exactly how local is local?

The real problem, as I see it, is the constant deliberate distortion of truth by so many people on so many sides. Whatever happened to honesty? What happens here in Utah is, I'm afraid, too common in other parts of the country. Very often the wishes of many -- perhaps even a majority -- of local residents are pushed aside by political bulldozers fueled by lots of money.

In every situation in which a national monument has been established by presidential proclamation, there had been mountains of public support that had been ignored to appease small but powerful groups of opponents who had dollar signs in their eyes. That was even true of Clinton's creation of Grand Staircase.

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