The First State was the last one to get a National Park. Yesterday President Obama signed a declaration creating five new National Monuments including the First State National Monument. All 49 other states plus six Territories already had some part of the National Park system excluding our smallest one. Today Delaware’s own, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Old New Castle with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Director of the National Park Service and Sen. Thomas Carper to celebrate the fact the Diamond State was recognized as the 400th member of the system.
The effort to bring a National Park to Delaware was a lengthy one and was done at no cost to taxpayers thanks to about 350 volunteers who spearheaded the project. Sen. Carper joked that their original idea was for the Great Cypress Swamp in the southern part of the state was killed by hunters who use it frequently. They then cobbled together a collection of historic sites and conservation areas, one straddling the border with Pennsylvania called the Woodlawn Conservation Area, to unite as one historic area. Recognition was given to Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Meehan for his support of the project.
Old New Castle as the site of today’s event was meaningful. If you ever wondered about that arc which serves as most of the Pennsylvania/Delaware border it was drawn as a twelve mile circle from the New Castle Courthouse. The Delaware River flows quietly just two blocks from the Square outside the courthouse.
Five new National Monuments were originated yesterday including the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Maryland and the Taos Gorge National Monument in northern New Mexico. I drove down through most f that last fall on a day trip I took to Chama, through the Cumbres Pass in Colorado, to Altonita, Colorado and then back down through the Gorge area to Santa Fe.
Four nature trails in Pennsylvania are among 31 designated as National Recreation Trails today by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. They are:
Cumberland Valley Rail Trail
The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail follows the old Cumberland Valley Railroad rail corridor for 9.5 miles, from Shippensburg to Newville, through the rich, rolling, picturesque farmlands of western Cumberland County in south-central Pennsylvania. Wooded stands of native trees shade much of this historically significant route. Trail enthusiasts can enjoy walking, jogging, bicycling, horseback riding and other non-motorized recreational uses. A grassy bridle path parallels the pedestrian path along the entire length.
This 30-mile section of the 193-mile Mason-Dixon Trail is a hiking trail that follows the lower Susquehanna River from Wrightsville to the Norman Wood Bridge. There are beautiful views, deep ravines with waterfalls, and several big climbs and descents to where streams have carved out canyons in the river hills.
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is an urban rail-trail paralleling the riverbanks in the Pittsburgh area for about 21 miles, often on both sides of the rivers. The trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, and the Pittsburgh to Erie Mainline Canal and Greenway. It offers spectacular views of the city. Recent surveys indicate diverse use of the trail for recreation and commuting purposes.
Three Rivers Water Trail
The Three Rivers Water Trail is a series of public non-motorized access points within the 90 riverfront municipalities of Allegheny County. It is an urban water trail which follows the Three Rivers in the Pittsburgh area for about 75 miles. The trail extends to Sewickley on the Ohio River, Harrison on the Allegheny River, and Elizabeth on the Monongahela River, and is easily accessed from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The Three Rivers Water Trail is part of the statewide water trail system, connecting to the Youghiogheny River Trail and the Kiski-Conemaugh River Water Trail.
I’m excited to see a water trail included on the list being an avid kayaker. Water trails and paddling provide an excellent way to get outdoors and appreciate our natural environment in addition to hiking.
“From coast to coast, the National Trails System helps connect American families with the wonders of the great outdoors,” said Salazar. “These new national recreation trails, built through partnerships with local communities and stakeholders, will create new opportunities for fitness and stewardship while creating a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.”
In announcing the new designations, Salazar highlighted two important initiatives established by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage Americans to enjoy the great outdoors as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Last month, President Obama launched the “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative” to protect special places and to help Americans reconnect to the outdoors. Under his leadership, the administration is reaching out to communities across the country to hear good ideas about conservation and to learn about the efforts that ordinary Americans are making to conserve our land, water, and wildlife. More information on the initiative can be found here.
Meanwhile, the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative is promoting a healthier lifestyle for children by encouraging them to eat healthier foods and become more physically active.
“I hope that millions of Americans will take advantage of the opportunities provided by our national trails to embrace a fuller, healthier lifestyle,” Salazar said.
Every national park will waive entrance fees on the weekend of June 5-6 to help encourage people of all ages to get outside and use trails for exercise and exploration. In addition, hundreds of organized activities including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications will take place. A listing of activities is available at this website.
The national recreation trail designation recognizes existing trails and trail systems that link communities to recreational opportunities on public lands and in local parks across the nation. The first ones were established in 1971.