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New York State’s Recreational Areas Deserve Spotlight

By Guest Observer November 30, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

Photograph Courtesy of the National Park Service

View of Central Park in New York City. Photo Courtesy: National Park Service

As a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, I’ve met park managers and activists from all parts of the world. I have seen how America’s National Parks are well known internationally. The National Park System is called the best idea America has ever had. The National Park Service is renowned for its skill in managing parks from Yellowstone, known as the mecca of parks, to portions of Lowell, Mass., an old industrial city.

But New York state has not gotten such national and international attention for its great parks and protected areas.

Consider the state’s protection of wilderness areas.

One of the nation’s most important environmental laws turned 50 this year: the Wilderness Act. New York played an important role in its establishment. The state passed a constitutional amendment in 1894 declaring the public land within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks shall remain “forever wild.” This is the only constitutionally protected wild land in the nation, a large portion of which is being managed as “wilderness.”

Howard Zahniser, former leader of the Wilderness Society, was instrumental in the creation of the Wilderness Law. Zahniser had a cabin in the Adirondack Park near a cabin owned by Paul Schaefer, a leading advocate for protecting New York’s forest preserve. Zahniser was impressed by the forest preserve and spent many hours talking with Schaefer about New York’s experience with the forest preserve.

Like our National Park System, New York has a wide range of top notch parks and protected areas. Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City are renowned as urban pastoral gardens. Olmsted also selected the location of Albany’s Washington Park. Regrettably, Albany’s city fathers rejected Olmsted’s insistence on designing a coordinated system of parks and parkways, and he moved on to Buffalo, where he went on to do just that, the first such system of its kind in the country.

In 1892, the state established the vast Adirondack Park, which is now 6 million acres in size. It was followed in the early 20th century by the Catskill Park. Both parks are a matrix of wild forest lands and inhabited areas.
Robert Moses led New York to establish the nation’s first state park system, now composed of 179 state parks and 37 historic sites. The system includes Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the nation, Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and the vast Jones Beach on Long Island.

In 1982 the state enacted the nation’s first Urban Cultural Park System. It is now called the Heritage Area System. It has 20 State Heritage Areas ranging from Harbor Park in New York City, portions of cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, villages like Seneca Falls and Sackets Harbor, and regional heritage areas like the Concord Grape Heritage Area.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas. Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Heritage Areas have been called “partnership” parks because successful management depends upon partnership between the state, localities and the private sector. Sadly, they have been limping along because the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has not wanted to uphold its share of the partnership. Notwithstanding the troubles some of the Heritage Areas have had with the state, the first of the 49 National Heritage Areas which followed in New York’s footsteps is having a 30th anniversary this year. New York again led the nation.

Our state also has established greenways like the Hudson River Greenway, stretching from New York City to Saratoga and Washington counties, and preserves like the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, which was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, and the Long Island Central Pine Barrens.

We should be proud of our parks and protected areas in New York state. Many of us enjoy, are inspired by and make good recreational use of one or more of our parks and protected areas, but I don’t think we have proudly proclaimed how world class our parks, protected and heritage areas are. We need to show our pride if we are to be known as a desirable place to live.

This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on October 12, 2014


Apply Now for Advocacy Scholars – Deadline Oct. 31

By Guest Observer August 27, 2014
Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Members of the the North Carolina Delegation from University of North Carolina Greensboro during Advocacy Week 2013, pictured here with Representative Richard Hudson. Photo: Preservation Action

Deadline October 31!

Historic Preservation Advocacy Week is an annual event bringing over 250 preservationists to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to advocate for stronger federal preservation policies. This year, the Preservation Action Foundation will be offering a limited number of scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students to attend the important event. The award includes complimentary registration to Advocacy Week in March 2015 and a $500 stipend.

The Advocacy Scholars Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students in Public Policy, Historic Preservation, History, Law, Planning, Architecture or related programs. Submissions must be emailed by October 31st. Note Advocacy Scholar in subject line.

Selected Advocacy Scholars will be notified by January 5, 2015.

Submissions must include:

1. A cover letter stating your interest, any previous legislative or advocacy experience and how participating in the program will contribute to your academic and professional goals.

2. A 1,500 word essay on either of the following topics:

National Heritage Areas@30: In 2014 Congress considered multiple requests to designate new National Heritage Areas, even though the program faces continued financial and legislative challenges. Why is this large landscape program so compelling and what is its future? Give us your thoughts.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established policy to protect our nation’s cultural resources. Preservation Action was founded by advocates to make historic preservation policies a national legislative priority. How do people who value preservation continue to take a stand? How to engage the next generation of historic preservationists and advocates?

3. Proof of academic enrollment.

For more information, www. or contact Trisha Logan, Vice Chair of Development for Preservation Action at


Cultural Landscape Foundation Features Duncan Hilchey Interview

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014
Credit: Duncan Hilchey

Grape Belt Heritage Area, New York State. Credit: Duncan Hilchey

The Cultural Landscape Foundation recently featured an interview with Duncan Hilchey. It highlights his work on agricultural landscapes, including the wild blueberry barrens of Maine and the cranberry bog region of southeastern Massachusetts, both recently included as featured landscapes, as well as the Concord Grape Belt in New York State. Read the whole interview here.


Help NY State Heritage Areas

By Guest Observer August 26, 2014

by Paul Bray

A few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia. Lake Baikal is so large that it is often mistaken for a sea. It is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” The American lawyer responded bluntly saying that America has contributed “the rule of law.”
Credit: New York State Government

While Russian culture has much to admire, it is rule of law that makes America special. As a drafter of laws for 30 years at the state Legislature and as an engaged citizen, I respect our state laws. It is troubling to me when, for example, a law like the state heritage area law is ignored and intentionally is not funded or not supported with staff, as is happening in the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic preservation law under the Cuomo administration.

The New York State Heritage Area System Act of the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law enacted in 1982 represents the first and most comprehensive attempt at creating a statutory framework for the designation and management of urban and regional heritage settings.

Today, the system has 20 heritage areas, like the Albany Heritage Area, designated by the state Legislature. The 1982 New York law creating a system of 13 state heritage areas is the forerunner of the 49 National Heritage Areas, which include the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Hudson River National Heritage area. The first National Heritage Area, The Illinois-Michigan National Heritage Corridor, was created 30 years in 1984 ago by Congress.

We should think of the state’s heritage as the Europeans think of their cultural heritage. Europeans consider it their “common wealth — our inheritance from previous generations of Europeans and our legacy for those to come,” as the European Commission puts it in a report this year on an integrated approach to the cultural heritage of Europe. “It is an irreplaceable repository of knowledge and a valuable resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion.”
The report goes on to recognize that “cultural heritage is a shared resource, and a common good. Like other such public goods it can be vulnerable to over-exploitation and under-funding, which can result in neglect, decay and, in some cases, oblivion. Looking after our heritage is, therefore, our common responsibility.”

New York’s heritage areas are “partnership parks” encompassing public and private interests as well as partnership between state and local government. The award-winning state plan for the state heritage area system declared “the principal state agency responsible for establishing the System will be the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.”
But our state parks agency abandoned the state heritage areas and their law, leaving the responsibility to local governments.

Some heritage areas have had success; others have failed for lack of state partnership support. This abandonment of the state heritage area law, which remains in the state law books, is a sad example of the failure of the rule of law by the state of New York.

* This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 11, 2014
Paul Bray’s email is


How to Write Off Traditional Cultural Properties: the Gladesmen Report

By Guest Observer July 31, 2014

by Tom King

Note: This article was first posted as an entry on the weblog Tom King’s CRM Plus on July 8, 2014.

Credit: National Park Service

Historic image of Gladesmen using Dune Buggies in the Everglades. Credit: NPS

I recently reviewed a report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by New South Associates, entitled You Just Can’t Live Without it: Ethnographic Study and Evaluation of Traditional Cultural Properties of the Modern Gladesmen Culture. I hoped that the report would describe a good traditional cultural properties (TCP) study that focused on places of concern to groups of people other than Native Americans or Native Hawai’ians.  Such studies are rare; although National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of TCPs makes it clear that diverse groups of people can value such places, there is a tendency to limit the context in which the TCP concept is applied.

I was deeply disappointed by the Gladesmen report, and feel obligated to say why.

Who Are the Gladesmen?

The Gladesmen are mostly Euro-american (especially Scots-Irish) rural residents of Florida’s Everglades. They’re broadly characterized as a subdivision of the American South’s “Cracker” culture of self-sufficient rural subsistence farming, fishing, hunting, gathering and very small-scale industry. Gladesmen comprise the families that have for generations lived in and around the Everglades, more or less making their livings by hunting alligators and other game, fishing, plume gathering, moonshining, and small-scale agriculture (See Simmons & Ogden 2010, Ogden 2011).

The Study

The ethnographic study of Gladesmen TCPs was commissioned by the Corps of Engineers in connection with a Master Recreation Plan being developed as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Apparently the possibility of National Register eligible TCPs was raised during public meetings on the CERP, and the Corps contracted with New South to determine whether any existed. New South undertook a program of background research and ethnographic interviews to reach conclusions about whether any Gladesmen TCPs were present. Having identified thirteen candidate sites, they went through them and concluded that only two were in fact TCPs eligible for the Register – though they hedge their bets by calling for some to be analyzed further if some future action threatens them.


So why did I find the Gladesmen study so disappointing? Let me try to explain:

What Was Evaluated?

It is not clear to me how the thirteen sites studied were selected, or indeed why specific sites were selected at all. Comments on the draft report by Palm Beach County Archaeologist Christian Davenport identified a number of other seemingly relevant locations that should have been considered, as well as additional informants. New South breezily dismisses Davenport’s comments as “outside the scope of this preliminary study.” Exactly what the study is “preliminary” to is unclear. What particularly puzzles me is why the authors felt compelled to focus on specific locations. One clear feature of Gladesmen culture is the mobility of its participants; they traveled and still travel all over the Glades. Why wasn’t the overall landscape evaluated? By focusing on specific locations (albeit including some linear properties like roads and streams), it seems to me that the study atomizes the environment that Gladesmen value, making it easy to devalue its specific parts.

Which is what the report proceeds to do.

(Mis)understanding TCPs

Although the authors of the report have apparently at least looked at National Register Bulletin 38, there is little evidence that they’ve tried very hard to understand it. Instead, it appears that they have cherry-picked concepts, and in some cases made them up, to support their conclusions.

In Chapter II, for example, on page 10, we are told that:

“(a)n identified historic property usually must be 50 years old to be considered a TCP.”

This implies that a place must first be “identified” as an historic property and then considered for TCP status if it is 50 years old. This of course stands the evaluation process on its head. A place is a TCP if it is regarded by people as important in sustaining their traditional cultural values; having recognized that it has this value, then one applies the National Register criteria and criteria considerations to see if it is Register-eligible. And of course, “50 years old” is a deeply simplistic gloss on the actual “Fifty-year rule” laid out in the Register’s criteria considerations.

The same paragraph characterizes the “integrity” of a TCP as referring to “a sustained, integral relationship to traditional cultural or beliefs” and a condition that is “sufficient to convey significance.” This may be a clumsy gloss on the Bulletin’s discussion of a TCP’s two kinds of integrity – integrity of association and integrity of condition – but if so it is a clumsy one indeed. The reference to a “sustained…relationship,” for example, is made up out of whole cloth, but neatly sets the authors up for their subsequent dismissal of eleven of the sites. The allusion to “convey(ing) significance” – another notion not derived from Bulletin 38 – helps the authors dismiss the significance of the sites based on their own perceptions (i.e. the perceptions of those to whom the sites do or do not convey things) – never mind those of the Gladesmen.

“Continuity” Claptrap

On the same page, we are told that:

“the most critical element in whether or not a property represents a TCP is its role in long term and continuous maintenance of a given culture” (emphasis added).

“Continuity” is a notion that has no basis whatever in Bulletin 38. The Bulletin succinctly says, on page 18, that “(t)he fact that a property may have gone unused for a lengthy period of time … does not make the property ineligible for the (National) Register.” Let alone ineligible to be a TCP. Continuity as a “critical element” – or indeed any kind of element – is something that has been made up to justify dismissing the significance of places from whose use people have been lately excluded. As many Indian tribes can testify, the fact that one has been made unable to maintain the traditional use of a place – through relocation, forcible exclusion, genocide, or other historical circumstance – by no means renders the place insignificant. Yet the authors of the Gladesmen study elevate their whole-cloth invention to the status of “most critical element” in determining whether a place is a TCP. They go on to explain:

“Because continuity in use plays such an important role in defining TCPs, changes in a property’s use or association through time can change the eligibility status of that property. If extensive changes or discontinuity in use occur through time, a site that has integrity may still be eligible for recording as a historic property…. But it would not maintain the necessary level of significance for recording as a TCP.”

This “important role” that the authors assign to “continuity in use” forms the basis for the rest of the study’s dismissive “analysis.” But it is a status assigned by the authors based on no stated authority, and it is directly inconsistent with the plain language of Bulletin 38.

Inflating Misstatements

Perhaps following the maxim that if you tell a big enough lie often enough it becomes the truth, the authors repeatedly reframe and elaborate on their misstatements. On page 103, Chapter VII, for instance, as they set about “identifying Gladesmen TCPs,” they say that:

“(i)t is important to restate here that many properties associated with Gladesmen Culture may warrant recording as ‘historic properties’… but not all of these will meet the criteria for recording them (sic) as TCPs. The NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association with the (Gladesmen) culture whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

So now a Gladesmen TCP must not only be eligible for the Register and “represent a continuing association” (whatever that means), but must have “maintaining cultural identity and practice” as its “primary importance.” How in the world is anyone supposed to ascertain whether a place meets all these new and inventive standards? Who, for instance, is supposed to decide whether a place’s role in “maintaining cultural identify and practice” is “primary?” As opposed to secondary, tertiary, or quaternary?

Note, too, the reference to “NRHP guidelines.” What guidelines are these? Certainly not Bulletin 38. The bibliography also refers to National Register Bulletin 15; if that bulletin provides advice upon which the authors base their assumptions, it would have been helpful for them to have provided a specific citation. But no, we are simply assured that New South’s case is grounded on “NRHP guidelines.”

The mysterious “guidelines” are referred to again on page 124, where we are told that:

“NRHP guidelines distinguish a TCP as a property that not only meets existing (as opposed, one imagines, to nonexistent) criteria as a historic property … but is also one that represents a continuing association whose primary importance is its role in maintaining cultural identity and practice.”

The authors go on to warn us that:

“(p)roperties will not meet TCP criteria if the continuity of their use has significantly changed over time, if they do not retain sufficient integrity, and, most importantly, if they do not contribute to maintaining Gladesmen Culture as a whole.”

Again, as far as I can tell, New South has made up these standards on the spot, out of thin air.

Who Sez?

But let’s assume just for a moment that there really is some National Register guideline that makes all those preposterous statements. How would one operationalize it? Notably, who is to determine whether the use of a place has “significantly changed?” Or whether it retains “sufficient” integrity? “Sufficient” relative to what? And who decides whether a place contributes to maintaining Gladesmen Culture, particularly “as a whole?”

New South never tells us, but it becomes abundantly clear that the invariable answer to the question of “who says” is: you guessed it, New South. Despite Bulletin 38’s repeated calls for evaluating the significance and integrity of places with reference to the views and beliefs of those who value them, the Gladesmen report authors never miss a beat in skipping from describing properties to evaluating them, with never a reference that I could find to the views of Gladesmen themselves. Chapter IX presents the study’s “results,” which the authors unblushingly identify on page 131 as “New South Associates’ findings.”

The Bottom Line

And what are these findings? That eleven of the thirteen properties described just haven’t been “demonstrated” (by whom?) to be TCPs, or lack “sufficient” information to permit evaluation. Two properties – a duck camp and the site of an airboat association (already identified by the Corps as eligible for the Register) are identified as honest-to-gosh TCPs.

Here’s one typical example of how New South writes off possible TCPs. It happens to be Duck Camp #2, but it could be any of the others.

“Oral history suggests that this campsite has been in use by modern Gladesmen since the late 1950s, as well as during earlier times. However, use of the camp by regional Gladesmen changed with its ownership by Governor Kirk, and the current camp cabin was not built until the 1970s. While the location has a known Gladesmen association that qualifies it as an historic property, New South does not recommend Duck Camp #2 to the NRHP as a TCP.”

Just like that. The site is associated through oral history with Gladesmen use since sometime before the late 1950s but New South in its Olympian wisdom “does not recommend” it as a TCP.

Why? Well, we’re not told, but maybe it has something to do with that 1970s house. But we’re talking about a site here, are we not? Which in NRHP lingo means a piece of real property regardless of any buildings or structures on it. Or maybe it’s something in the oral history – maybe people say “naah, we don’t care about that place.” If that’s what they say, it might have been nice of the authors to mention it. But New South apparently feels no need to justify its judgments with data; it is sufficient that it “does not recommend” the place.

The statement does go on:

“The camp appears to be typical of a mid-century Everglades backcountry camp that is used by an individual or a small number of people.”

Is this some sort of implicit standard? Must the camp be atypical? Used by more than a “small” (sic) number of people? We are not told. We are told, however – in another unsubstantiated statement of imperious opinion, that:

“Duck Camp #2 does not exhibit a continuing association with modern Gladesmen Culture as a whole and therefore is not recommended as a TCP.”

Excuse me? Have the authors not just asserted that Duck Camp #2 has a Gladesmen association extending back to before the 1950s? Is this somehow not “continuing?” Did Governor Kirk’s ownership sever that relationship? If so, how? Or is the failure somehow to reflect association with Gladesman culture “as a whole” what dooms the camp? The (somewhat) detailed data on Duck Camp #2 found on pages 156-60 does not clarify.

The rest of the evaluations are similar. Each briefly summarizes descriptive data on the site and then states a conclusion, substantiated by nothing other than New South’s self-assumed authority


What are we to make of this report? It’s certainly not an example I intend to cite – except perhaps as an indicator of how not to evaluate TCPs. But why in the world is it as it is? Does it give the Corps of Engineers anything it can really use in designing and carrying out the CERP? Does it give Gladesmen any help in preserving these places that, as the report’s title implies, they “just can’t live without?” Did preparing it accomplish anything other than to support some New South employees for a while and bring New South some overhead?

I don’t know, but I do know that the report butchers the very notion of traditional cultural properties, wildly misinterpreting Bulletin 38. I suspect, too, that it has given the Corps an ostensibly authoritative basis for writing off the traditional cultural significance of Gladesmen sites – and perhaps more importantly, of Gladesmen cultural landscapes – as it moves forward with implementing the CERP.


Ogden, Laura A.
2011 Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

Parker, Patricia L. and Thomas F. King

1990 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Documentation of Traditional Cultural Properties. National Register Bulletin 38. Washington DC, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.

Simmons, Glenn, and Laura Ogden
2010 Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers. Gainesville, University Press of Florida.

Addendum: After this review appeared on my weblog, I received a note from a source that I regard as entirely reliable, advising me that the Gladesmen report had been modified significantly after its author turned it in, without her knowledge or consent, essentially reversing her conclusions. If this is true — and I have no reason to think it is not, it absolves her of responsibility for the report, but does nothing to resolve the larger issues. Sadly, I think the kind of thing the published Gladesmen report represents is pretty typical of standard “professional” practice these days in cultural resource management and environmental impact assessment.

Thomas F. (Tom) King is the author, co-author, or editor of ten books on aspects of cultural heritage, and the co-author of National Register Bulletin 38 on the identification and documentation of traditional cultural places. He is a consultant based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and can be contacted at tomking106 at


New Report: Climate Change Threatens United States’ most cherished historic sites

By Guest Observer July 30, 2014

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists documents the consequences of climate change that are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk. From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California’s César Chávez National Monument, these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.
Read the full report: National Landmarks at Risk


Theater Production Tells Story of Birth of First Women’s Labor Union

By Guest Observer July 1, 2014

By Paul M. Bray, Special Advisor to the Riverspark Heritage Area Commission

File:Kate Mullany House Marker 30May2008.jpg

Kate Mullany House, National Historic Landmark designation. Photo: NPS

At a time when labor unions are under siege, the story of the birth of the labor movement reveals how unions made the growth of the America’s middle class possible.

Early chapters of the story include the establishment of the nation’s first bona fide all-female union took place in Troy 150 years ago’. This occurred under the leadership of a young Irish immigrant Kate Mullany and her colleague Esther Keegan who reacted to the low wages, long hours of 12 to 14 hours a day and unsafe conditions in the collar factories. Local writer and director Ruth Harvey dramatized the story in a new musical Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot! Hundreds of people recently saw the musical at the Bush Auditorium at Russell Sage in Troy.

Speaking about Mullany, Henry said “I love the idea of a real person who was like a super hero. She had no particular talents but she had heart. She is a great role model…for young people today.” Kate was in her early 20s when her father died leaving her family without money. She went to work in a collar and cuff factory to support her mother and siblings and it was not long before she stepped out of the factory and onto the streets to make public the conditions of the collar workplace.

She ultimately led a week long strike in 1864 that gained collar workers a 25% increase in their wages. After the strike, Kate’s mother purchased land on Eighth Street in Troy and built a brick duplex with three units on each side of this row house that is today a National Landmark and is also listed on the New York State Women’s Heritage Trail.

There is a long story of good and ugly deeds that led to the recognition of Kate Mullany. It all came back to me as I watched the musical.
In the 1970s, five neighboring communities that shared a location on the Hudson River and an industrial heritage created at the municipal level what has become the Riverspark Heritage Area, the first of 20 New York state heritage areas. Its purposes are to interpret and promote the area’s industrial and labor history.

Kate Mullany House

View of the Kate Mullany House in Troy. Credit: NPS

The structures like the Harmony Mills in Cohoes and homes of the rich on 2nd Street in Troy were evident, but workers did not leave much of built legacy. The Riverspark commission hired cultural historians to identify its worker landmarks. Kate Mullany’s home on 8th Street in Troy, the worker housing at the Harmony Mills and Druids Hall were highlighted in the resulting report.

Mullany’s role in the labor movement caught the attention of now retired Secretary-Treasurer of New York’s AFL-CIO Paul Cole who carried the ball. He got the State AFL-CIO to recognize the “uniquely rich history of organized labor and working-class culture” in Riverspark calling it “labor’s Williamsburg”. He was a key ally in getting national recognition for Mullany and having her home protected, restored and designated as both a National Landmark and a National Historic Site in the National Park System. He also established the American Labor Studies Center that he manages at the Mullany House as the House is being fully restored to be able to open it to the public in 2015. There were many road blocks along the way.

The National Park Service did not have a theme study for labor history. Theme studies are the vehicle to identify key national sites for inclusion in the National Park System and as National Historic Landmarks. Thanks to former Congressmen Mike McNulty whose district included Riverspark, former Congressman Bruce Vento from Minnesota and New York State’s former Senator Patrick Moynihan, Congress adopted a law calling for a national labor theme study. National Park Service historian Harry Butowsky led the theme study that included recommendations that the Harmony Mills and the Mullany House receive landmark designation.
There was also significant opposition to the effort. Some people were ideologically opposed to unions, while others did not believe the achievements of a female labor organizer with little formal education worth recognizing and preserving. Another group expressed concerns about the contemporary setting of the Mullany House, which was located in a distressed section of Troy.

Thanks to Paul Cole, Harry Butowsky, union members who painted the House, advocacy from the Riverspark Heritage Area, state officials who provided necessary funding for restoration of the House and others like Hillary Clinton, who as First Lady included the Mullany House on her National Treasures Tour, despite the fact that the National Park Service did not encourage the visit, the Mullany House has been saved, is a National Landmark and is a National Historic Site in the National Park System.

When the First Lady made her visit to dedicate the Landmark plaque for the Mullany House, it was wonderful to see the awe in the faces of the street kids at seeing the First Lady on the Mullany Street.

Courtesy: Kate Mullany National Historic Site

Scene from Don’t Iron while the Strike is Hot!, a musical on the life of Kate Mullany. Photo: Kate Mullany National Historic Site

Harvey’s musical according to author Carole Turbin, “shows how labor activism really works”. In this case led by a young Irish immigrant woman who went on to lead efforts to improve collar worker’s conditions for six years and was named assistant secretary of the National Labor Union. Paul Cole calls her “one of early American labor history’s most important women.” Paul also said, “Given the fact that a majority of Americans say they know nothing or little about unions, this musical about a group of courageous Irish immigrants is a wonderful way for students, teachers and others to witness why workers need an organized voice in the workplace to improve their wages and working conditions. It is as true today as it was in 1864.

Copies of the Mullany script and a music CD can be purchased by contacting author Ruth Henry at Educational resources on Mullany can be found at
The contemporary Mullany story is a good example of how heritage areas can be the catalyst for engaging communities and our political leaders to bring an unrecognized chapter of our history alive.


Digital Landscapes

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

Can new digital technologies aid in the documentation, interpretation, and protection of large landscapes? Below are a few interesting projects and tools from around the web that seek to do just that.

Landscope America – a collaborative project of NatureServe and the National Geographic Society, which brings together maps, data, photos, and stories.  The site includes in-depth features on specific regions, including the Chesapeake.

The Spatial History Project at Stanford University – a place for students, staff, and scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to engage in creative spatial, textual and visual analysis to further research in the humanities. The site features many projects, including Reconstructing California Conservation History and Shaping the West.

Mapbox is an open source mapping platform – check out InfoAmazonia to see what some of its capabilities are

“Story maps” are a new interactive web technology created by ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud-based mapping and GIS system. There are a variety of project collections (including conservation, planning, and history) worth browsing to get an idea of how other individuals and organizations have combined narrative and mapping.

The Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation has created maps compiled from a variety of resources, which document a growing number of landscape-scale conservation initiatives across North America.

Please add more links in the comments section!


Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Seeking New Executive Director

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Inc. (Blackstone) seeks an Executive Director.

Established in 2010, Blackstone is a Massachusetts non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors consisting of between 15 and 25 members. Its mission is to work in partnership with the National Park Service and other key partner organizations in the Blackstone River Valley to preserve, protect and interpret the cultural, historic and natural resources found there, and in particular those which tell the story of American industrialization as it began and evolved in the Blackstone River Valley, including the Blackstone River, the Blackstone Canal, mills, mill villages, farms and other historic structures, sites and landscapes.

Blackstone traces its roots to 1986 when Congress established the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (the “Corridor”), which encompasses all or parts of 24 communities extending from Providence, RI to Worcester, MA. As part of the authorizing legislation, Congress also established a bi-state federal commission under the auspices of the Secretary of the Interior (the “Commission”) charged with managing the Corridor for the purpose of “preserving and interpreting the unique and significant contributions to our national heritage of certain historic and cultural lands, waterways and structures within the states of Massachusetts and Rhode.”

The Commission’s progress over two decades led Congress in 2006 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study whether a new unit of the National Park System should be established in the Blackstone River Valley. After conducting significant research and analysis over a period of several years the National Park Service concluded that a new unit was warranted which would include the Blackstone River and its tributaries, the Blackstone Canal and several specific sites in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Legislation to create the new unit is presently pending in Congress.

Blackstone is the regional partner organization charged with preserving, protecting and interpreting the many sites and landscapes in the Corridor that lie outside the boundaries of the proposed park. Since inception, Blackstone has worked with both the National Park Service and with cities, towns and local partner organizations in the Corridor on a variety of projects and issues, including the Blackstone River bikeway, gateway visitor centers in Pawtucket, RI and Worcester, MA, river access and water quality programs.

Building on this record of achievement and with a FY 2014 operating budget exceeding $497,000, the new Executive Director will have the opportunity to undertake a strategic planning process and invent new ways for the organization to influence the Valley’s future. He or she must keep abreast of life in the Valley and develop working relationships with municipal and non-profit partner organizations in order to identify and cooperate in promoting their common interests. The new Executive Director will lead efforts to deepen and broaden participation of local volunteers in Blackstone’s programs. The new Executive Director will oversee annual and major gift fundraising and keep the organization on a sound financial footing.

Qualifications: Blackstone seeks an entrepreneurial not-for-profit leader with a portfolio of demonstrable success and 5-10 years of management and supervisory experience. The ideal candidate will have an informed passion for historic preservation and environmental conservation advocacy. He or she will have expertise in fundraising, including foundation and government grant writing, membership development, annual fundraising and major gift programs. Experience in working with a volunteer board, in strategic planning, and in building organizational capacity is essential. The successful candidate will have excellent written and spoken communication skills and the ability to recruit and inspire others. A baccalaureate degree is required, and a graduate or professional degree in a relevant discipline, are preferred credentials.

How to apply:

Review of candidate materials will begin immediately and continue until an appointment is made. A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae or resume and contact information for five professional references who can speak about the candidate’s qualifications for this specific opportunity. Expressions of interest, applications, nominations and inquiries should be directed to Blackstone’s search consultant, Chuck O’Boyle of C. V. O’Boyle, LLC, at All communications will be held in confidence and references will not be contacted without the candidate’s prior consent. Blackstone is an equal-opportunity employer, committed to principles of affirmative action in its recruiting and hiring practices.


#NHA30: Tales from the Towpaths

By Guest Observer June 1, 2014

By Allen Sachse

National parks are popular. Despite our nation’s fiscal limitations, the American public has shown no sign of tiring of their national parks or desiring reductions in park opportunities. To the contrary, there is a demand for more services and accessibility to our public lands, especially near centers of population. So as we approach the second century of the National Park Service (NPS), how do we address these seemingly incongruent realities? A major part of the answer is that the NPS will be required to expand its current level and use of public/private partnerships. The national heritage area model is a public/private partnership model which has over-­‐time been proven to work.

The NPS has the daunting mission of preserving the resources and interpreting the most significant American stories. No doubt, Jon Jarvis, Director of the NPS, recognized the contribution National Heritage Areas (NHA) could make to this effort when he stated, “National Heritage Areas are places where small investments pay huge dividends, providing demonstrable benefits in communities across the country and in partnership with our national Parks.”

Credit: Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Josiah White Canal Boat Ride in the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Credit: Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Through my work as the former Executive Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Area, I developed a keen interest in this country’s early industrial transportation system of canals. So when visiting the District of Columbia, I often will stay in the Georgetown neighborhood. This affords me the opportunity in the evening to enjoy the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (C&O). The NPS does an exceptional job of preserving this tremendous asset with a modest operation and maintenance budget of approximately $9.3 million. However, as impressed as I am by the care and interpretation of the C&O, it is still difficult for people to truly understand how important canals were in the 19th century to the growth and development of this nation.

Early canals connected many of the inland towns to the major maritime cities. They were financed by both private capital and public funds. Often the engineers were presented with unprecedented challenges of geography in the design and construction. Construction required a massive labor force, which was not readily available. Canals provided waterpower for mills; canals moved massive amounts coal and other raw materials to manufacturers of industrial products; canals transported the manufactured products to the consumers, improving commerce and trade; canals became the means to grow and expand our young nation. Canals linked the eastern markets to the Great Lakes and then on to the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. There are seven NHAs whose stories emanate from canals – Augusta Canal, Blackstone River Valley, Delaware & Lehigh, Erie Canalway, Illinois & Michigan, Ohio and Erie Canalway, and Schuylkill River.

Credit: Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Lock 60 Schuylkill River Heritage Area. Credit: Schuylkill River Heritage Area

Each of these NHAs is working in partnership with the NPS, state, and local agencies to preserve and tell this nationally significant story. Collectively, the seven NHAs received approximately $3.7 million in NPS Heritage Partnership funding in fiscal year 2014. Granted, one cannot accurately compare the cost of managing any given mile of a historic canal to another, for the resources truly differ. However, one can easily see that local ownership and multiple partners sharing the management responsibility can pay real dividends to the NPS as they face the challenge of preserving and sharing the stories of transportation, industrial growth, capital, immigration, labor, settlement, and more. However, it is equally important to note that because of the entrepreneurial nature of most NHAs the local partners also reap the benefits of this partnership by creating and supporting local jobs through investments in their community and heritage tourism. Regrettably many of this nation’s historic canals have been lost to time and neglect. These seven systems were also vulnerable, but because of the partnership work of these NHAs much has been saved for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

Credit: Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Credit: Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

These seven NHA partnerships are conserving approximately 1,000 miles of historic canal corridors and in the process saving miles of watered canal. Today these historic canals and towpaths are becoming tomorrow’s network of trails and blue ways connecting population centers to parks and historical sites of national, state, and local importance. The waterfront towns along the way are experiencing re-­‐purposed buildings and preserved neighborhoods. This is all accomplished by leveraging the collective resources and the partners’ commitment to preserving their shared heritage and sense of place.

There are many lessons to be learned about partnership management by studying the successes of the NHA program as it has evolved over the past three decades. At the request of Congress, the NPS commissioned a series of evaluations of nine of the longstanding NHAs. Westat, an external evaluation firm, undertook the work. The evaluations have been completed and the findings verify the accomplishments of the nine NHA partnerships to address the purpose defined in the legislative language and the original designation; the NHAs ability to leverage additional funds to meet program and infrastructure needs 4–1 (local to federal) in most cases; the NHAs showed sound management and fiscal responsibility; the NHAs relied on public participation and created partnerships to carry out the work; the partners preserved nationally significant resources; and the NPS gained an invaluable partner.

Allen Saches serves as the President of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas and was formerly the Executive Director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Prior to that position he had almost 30 years of service with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Community Affairs.


Observing the War on Poverty on the Landscape

By Guest Observer April 29, 2014

By Angela Sirna

In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed, "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort."

In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Johnson proclaimed, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.” Photo: NARA via Wikimedia Commons

In January 1964, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” A quick Google search today will tell you that the legacy of this war is still hotly debated fifty years later, prompting journalists, politicians, academics, bureaucrats, and the public to ask: “Did we win or lose the war on poverty?” Ideological lines, of course, split the answer. I believe that in examining the legacy of these anti-poverty measures we need to go back to places where these programs were first established and critically examine the cultural values these spaces embody.

I found myself examining the War on Poverty in an unexpected place—a national park. This past year I have been doing a special study on social reform programs at Catoctin Mountain Park, a small park tucked away in central Maryland only a short distance away from Washington, D.C. Not many people are aware that Catoctin has a long history of social reform—from the relocation of farmers to create a Recreational Demonstration Area during the New Deal to the establishment of the very first Job Corps program in the nation in 1965.

Congress passed the Johnson administration’s Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, which gave the government the ammunition to fight the War on Poverty. The legislation created a number of programs many Americans still use today, including, among many things, Head Start, College Work-Study, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and the Job Corps. The Economic Opportunity Act created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to coordinate these programs, and Johnson asked Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps, to lead the new agency.

The OEO, National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) set to work before the bill was passed to identify suitable locations for the Job Corps program. It is little coincidence that they chose Catoctin to be the first center. Job Corps administrators initially modeled the Job Corps program after the popular Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which put hundreds of thousands of young men to work in conservation projects at state and national parks and forests across the country during the New Deal. Works Progress Administration workers and CCC enrollees transformed Catoctin from a collection of farmsteads and timber lots to a park during the New Deal. The OEO and NPS identified the former CCC camp (now known as Round Meadow) to be an ideal location for the Job Corps program because they believed the old camp could be easily converted into a Job Corps Conservation Center (JCCC). They literally built the new center on the foundations of the old CCC camp underscoring their belief that they could meet or surpass the popularity of the CCC program.

February 1965 dedication of center in February 1965 showing Udall and Shriver getting ready to raise the flag in front the administrative building

February 1965 dedication of the Catoctin JCCC center. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall and OEO Director Sargent Shriver join corps members to raise the flag in front of the administrative building. Photo: Courtesy NPS

The Catoctin JCCC opened in January 1965 and welcomed thirty boys between the ages of 16 and 21 from inner city Baltimore and the hills of Appalachia. The Job Corps administration’s high expectations that the Job Corps would meet or surpass the success of the CCC quickly dissipated as enrollees began dropping out in record numbers. Catoctin lost nearly forty percent in its first six months and struggled to keep staff. Politicians and journalists scrutinized the Catoctin JCCC using the center as a measuring stick for the War on Poverty’s success or failure.

The resemblance of the Job Corps to the New Deal CCC program was only superficial. The Job Corps, established during the Civil Rights era, was purposefully integrated, while the CCC was segregated. The two programs also differed in purpose. CCC administrators were concerned with putting young men to work through conservation projects. The Job Corps aimed at education and vocational training for young men, many of whom were illiterate. The OEO also had the ambitious goal of ending poverty in the United States. Job Corps administrators approached poverty as a problem of environmental and material circumstance. They thought that moving young men from “negative” environments to a more “positive,” healthful setting (such as the salubrious environment of a national park) would enable enrollees to pull themselves out of poverty. Administrators were surprised that any participant would leave a Job Corps center to go back home to his family and friends.

Job corps members work in the Catoctin sign shop. Image: NPS

Job corps members work in the Catoctin sign shop. Photo: Courtesy NPS

Catoctin JCCC remained open from 1964 to 1969. Johnson’s successor, Republican President Richard Nixon, reduced the program and closed conservation centers, including Catoctin. Contemporaries saw the Catoctin JCCC as a political failure, but many of the lessons learned at Catoctin paved the way for future Job Corps centers and youth programs. And some individuals did benefit from the Job Corps program. Lamar Marchese arrived at Catoctin in March 1965 as one of the very first VISTA volunteers in the country. His time at Catoctin launched a long career of public service, during which time he founded Nevada Public Radio. Lamar recalled a group of young men that he called “The Wolf Pack” that stuck together throughout their time at Catoctin and were committed to improving their educational and vocational skills. Catoctin JCCC also nurtured the artistic talents of a young man named Saul Haymond, who graduated from the program and became a renowned folk artist upon his retirement from farm labor in Mississippi.

View of the Job Corps Kitchen and Dining Hall at Catoctin Mountain, which the NPS converted from an eight bay garage building used by the CCC. It is still possible to see the timbers from the garage bay inside the dining hall. Part of evaluating the War on Poverty landscape, will be an assessment of structures like this one. Photo by Angela Sirna.

View of the Job Corps Kitchen and Dining Hall at Catoctin Mountain Park, which the NPS converted in the 1960’s from an eight bay garage used by the CCC. It is still possible to see the timbers from the garage bay inside the dining hall. Part of evaluating the War on Poverty landscape, will be an assessment of structures like this one. Photo: Angela Sirna

It is difficult to evaluate the legacy of the War on Poverty without examining these programs on the local level. Catoctin is a useful place to begin because it was a model for other centers and much of the infrastructure remains in situ today. The Job Corps dining hall, administrative office, maintenance shop, laundry and storage buildings, and gymnasium are intermingled with New Deal architecture. Next year most of these buildings will turn fifty years old and should be evaluated for the National Register for Historic Places –  How will preservationists evaluate this landscape’s significance and integrity?

This is not an issue just for Catoctin.  There were eight other Job Corps centers established in national parks between 1965 and 1969, including Oconaluftee and Tremont at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Onyx at Mammoth Cave National Park, Wellfleet at Cape Cod National Seashore, a center at Acadia National Park, the Gap at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Liberty Park at the Statue of Liberty, and a center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Only Harpers Ferry, Oconaluftee, and Great Onyx remain in operation today, though they are administered by the USFS, not the NPS. The USFS also had dozens of Job Corps centers. Likely, many of these parks and forests retain sites shaped by the War on Poverty and should also be evaluated to give a richer view of this dynamic period. But to do so calls for managers to take a hard look at this complicated legacy, and evaluate their agency’s role in the narrative.

Angela Sirna is a doctoral candidate in public history at Middle Tennessee State University. She was the Public Historian in Residence at Catoctin Mountain Park this past year and is finishing a Special Resource Study on human conservation programs at the park throughout the twentieth century. She is writing her dissertation on the development of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park from the New Deal through the Great Society. 


The Atlantic Coast Flyway: A Highway for Shorebird Migration

By Guest Observer March 31, 2014

By Debra Reynolds


Map of the Atlantic Flyways. Created by Debra Reynolds

Each year shorebirds use habitats across a vast geography, undertaking some of the longest migrations of any animals on earth. Within the Atlantic Flyway, many shorebird species breed on the Canadian Arctic tundra during summer, and then fly south in the fall to winter along the eastern shores of South America. During this international flight, they stop at several critical sites like the Delaware Bay and Caribbean Islands. While there, they rest and refuel to survive the long journey. Unfortunately, many of these shorebird populations are in trouble.

Atlantic Flyway shorebirds are exposed to a diverse set of human-induced threats like habitat loss and change, hunting in the Caribbean, and predators. Effective shorebird conservation thus requires a wide-ranging approach to identify and reduce these threats at sites all along the flyway. Such an approach must involve coordinated research, conservation, and management efforts among many groups and across many political boundaries. It must consolidate resources and target them to priority sites and actions to ensure efficient and effective conservation. Only with such a flyway-scale approach can we reverse the serious declines we are witnessing in many of our shorebird populations.

The Marbled Godwit, a large shorebird. Credit: William Majoros

The Marbled Godwit, a large Atlantic shorebird. Credit: William Majoros

The Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy is an unprecedented endeavor to implement conservation for shorebirds across an enormous geographic scale. It emphasizes the involvement of scientists, advocates, funders, and conservation practitioners all working together to carry out the most important actions to achieve specific, measurable outcomes for shorebirds. In this way, the strategy presents the needs, actions, and people that can recover this remarkable suite of species.

The strategy addresses the most serious human-induced threats known to affect shorebirds and their habitats in the Atlantic Flyway —one such threat is hunting at Caribbean and 
South American stopover and wintering sites. In 2011, Machi and Goshen, two satellite-tagged Whimbrels were shot by hunters in Guadeloupe after circumventing two hurricanes. This watershed event elevated international attention to the plight of shorebirds from hunting throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

The American Oystercatcher, a vibrantly-colored bird seen along the Atlantic Coast. Credit: William Majoros

The American Oystercatcher, a vibrantly-colored bird seen along the Atlantic Coast. Credit: William Majoros

Partners to the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy have been working together to improve shorebird harvest policy and regulations to thoroughly address the issue of shorebird harvest in the Caribbean and Latin America. For example, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was awarded a grant for $250,000 from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to help manage the hunt of high priority shorebirds in the Caribbean and northern South America.

The enormous task of reversing serious declines in shorebird populations can feel daunting at times. However, inspiration can be gained through stories of partners “called to action.” For instance, a highly focused partnership has been working for several years to restore American Oystercatcher populations. According to Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, “The results have been nothing short of remarkable. It appears oystercatcher numbers have increased 4% in just 48 months. As wildlife professionals know, a reversal of this magnitude during such a short time span is rarely seen.”

This success story reminds us that partners can coordinate their efforts across the full range of species to recover their populations— it is possible. And having a guiding document like the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy makes the job a little easier. Creating a safe highway for travelling shorebirds is within our grasp.

For more information on the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy contact To see the full strategy, visit this site.

– Debra Reynolds
Division of Migratory Birds
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


NHA@30: Key Documents 1983 New York Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference

By Guest Observer March 30, 2014

The 1970’s and early 1980s were a period of experimentation in the fields of conservation, historic preservation and planning. Looking back, what is perhaps most exciting is the rapprochement (integration may be too strong a word) that occurred across these knowledge areas at the local, state and federal levels.

The mixing and sharing of ideas among practitioners in these different fields, in conjunction with the input, organizing and passion of local communities, resulted in the initiation of a large number of landscape-scale projects.

These proceedings from the 1983 Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference (link is to a PDF-copy of the document housed in the New York State Library digital collections) capture and report back on wide variety of programs, including the New York Urban Cultural Parks, the New Jersey Pinelands and Lowell National Historical Park – all efforts that would be pivotal in influencing the designation of National Heritage Areas beginning in 1984.

Citation:  Proceedings [of] Greenline and Urbanline Parks Conference : held at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York, Albany, New York on May 20, 1983. Publisher: Department of Environmental Conservation, Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, State of New York.


Letter from Woodstock: The Presidio Matters

By Guest Observer March 2, 2014

by Rolf Diamant

(Originally printed in the George Wright Forum, Volume 30, N0. 13, 2013)

A few years ago, I suggested at a regional superintendents’ meeting that US national parks were facing a paradoxical future. This was, I said, an era of unprecedented changes and challenges but also, in many ways, a golden age for the National Park Service (NPS)—as it was an organization becoming more sophisticated, focused, and better trained than it has ever been in the past.  More than a few of my colleagues in the room did not agree with this assessment or at least objected to my choice of words as they complained about their operating budget shortfalls, staffing vacancies, various bureaucratic obstacles, and workloads. I couldn’t disagree with any of that—as a superintendent, I was working through similar problems in my own park—but I thought we should recognize that the park system was still growing in many positive directions.  Park superintendents, overall, were becoming more emotionally intelligent and adept at dealing with complexity. New, more inclusive, and successful community engagement strategies were being developed.  Partners were increasingly more nimble and capable and across the park system pockets of useful experimentation and innovation were able to flourish.

Credit: Dan Stern

The Inn at the Presidio, a 22-room restored property

In my sixth “Letter from Woodstock,” I will take a closer look at one of those nodes of useful experimentation and innovation, the Presidio of San Francisco. The 1,500-acre former military post is national parkland managed jointly by the federally chartered Presidio Trust and NPS, nested within the much larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  The trust manages about 80% of the Presidio (most historic buildings); NPS is responsible for the other 20% (mostly shoreline property around Crissy Field) and has legislative authorization to provide interpretive services, visitor orientation, and educational programs throughout the Presidio in cooperation with the trust.  (For the record, I worked for Golden Gate about 35 years ago on its first general management plan and I still keep up a membership in the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit partner that supports and assists the Golden Gate National Parks.)

Congress established the trust in 1996 as an independent government corporation with a mandate to manage the Presidio, find new uses for its nearly 800 structures (5.9 million square feet of useable space), and become financially self-sufficient within 15 years—a milestone that the trust reports it has now achieved.  By any measure the Presidio represents one of the most ambitious experiments in public park-making, urban design, and multi-sector cooperation anywhere in the world.  There have been base closures and transitions in other places, but given the distinctive nature of the Presidio, with its vast number of historic structures (over 400), its storied cultural landscape, and the immense urban infrastructure associated with it all, the scale of this undertaking is profoundly different and consequential.

The metrics of Presidio’s ongoing transformation are impressive by any measure. Today much of the residential and non-residential property in the Presidio has been renovated, leased, or rented, and 7,000 people live or work in a spectacular national park setting that attracts, according to the trust, approximately 5 million visitors annually. Three hundred-fifty historic buildings have been renovated, housing thousands of residents and some 225 organizations. The Presidio has been called the largest historic preservation project in the country and it probably is.

On a recent visit to the Presidio, I also saw stream restoration and reforestation projects, a newly built system of pedestrian and bike trails, an urban campground, and several spectacular scenic overlooks.  The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has been the trust’s principal nonprofit partner for much of this impressive park development. I think it is safe to say that the scale and pace of this transformation is without precedent in the modern national park system.

So what can be learned from the Presidio at this point in time?  While many of Presidio Trust’s circumstances and authorities are unique and cannot be easily replicated or adapted, I would direct attention to at least three developments that may have broader application:

  • The Presidio is demonstrating approaches to sustainable city living and sustainable park design, and the two can be merged to offer new ideas for adaptation and resiliency.  One noteworthy example is the revitalization of the 36-acre Presidio Public Health Service District, including the rehabilitation of a derelict six-story hospital and adjacent campus buildings for rental housing, office space, and a school.  Through environmental remediation and by adding new walking trails and overlooks, the Public Health Service District has also further enhanced the national park values of the Presidio. This neighborhood has come back to life with help of NPS-administered preservation tax credits and is the first historic landmark property to be certified by the US Green Building Council as “LEED for Neighborhood Development” for “smart growth, urbanism and green building.”
  • There is an opportunity at the Presidio to evaluate the reciprocal benefits of private and public investments. Repopulating the Presidio with people who live and work there along with shared neighborhood amenities (such as landscaping, public seating, cafés, and shops) encourages expanded recreational use as the public perceives the Presidio as a lively, attractive, and safe environment.  Similarly, the public projects (such as natural area restoration, bikeways, and overlooks) enhance the Presidio as a desirable place to live and work.
  • The governance model of the Presidio Trust has both strengths and weaknesses.  While much can be learned from how the trust carries out its work, particular attention needs to be focused on its relationship with NPS, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.  In the absence of a more structured partnership codified by statute (such as having Golden Gate National Recreation Area formally represented on the trust’s board of directors,) the partnership’s success depends a great deal on leadership, personality, and good will.  It would be instructive to better understand what confidence-building measures and other tools can be used to strengthen and periodically refresh the level of trust, cooperation, and shared vision essential to the health and robustness of the partnership.

The relationship has not always been an easy one between the trust and NPS, particularly in the early years. NPS and park advocates were unhappy with the 1996 Presidio Trust Act that had the trust report to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. NPS would be consulted, but would have no direct oversight. There were further worries that the congressional mandate for the Presidio to be financially self-sustaining in 15 years might later be applied to other parks in the system.  And finally, there was the fear of an even more troubling potential precedent: the reversion section in the act (which would only be invoked if the trust failed) would transfer trust-managed property, not to NPS, but to the General Services Administration, to be withdrawn from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and sold. Beyond misgivings about the legislation, NPS may have been uneasy about the broad authorities granted to the trust by Congress and the trust’s early focus on the real-estate side of its mission. Even today the Presidio is featured on the NPS home page, but curiously there is no mention of the Presidio Trust or link to its programs. For its part, the trust had plenty of trouble finding its own footing in the relationship. Looking at the trust’s annual report released ten years ago, the only collaborative projects with NPS and the conservancy appear to have been water monitoring and songbird inventories. Not so now: this year’s annual report credits the Presidio’s success to  “a strong collaboration” with NPS and the conservancy, the “principal organizational partners” of the trust.

This shift in tone reflects a maturing partnership.  But I suspect that the conservancy has also played an outsized role in facilitating more mutually beneficial cooperation.  Serving as the non-profit partner and cooperating association for both the Presidio Trust and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the conservancy has raised and invested substantial resources in a seamless network of new trails, overlooks, and other world-class visitor and educational facilities shared by both.  Both NPS and the trust had a major stake in the outcome of the conservancy’s hugely successful rescue and revitalization of Crissy Field, and likewise both will share in the many benefits to be derived from the recent gift of $25 million from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation to the conservancy. These funds will create 10 acres of parkland over a newly buried roadway, connecting the Presidio’s historic Main Post with Crissy Field’s marsh and waterfront. The gift will also expand the activities of the Crissy Field Center serving both the park and Presidio as “a nationally recognized program hub for youth engagement in environmental learning and community betterment.”  Reflecting the spirit of this cooperation, more and more signs are appearing bearing the logo of all three organizations—perhaps a modest but symbolic indicator of a new willingness to co-brand and share credit for the enormous transformation that is occurring.

The ultimate success of the Presidio, however, will be largely determined by attaining and holding on to what I call the “sweet spot” in the Presidio Trust’s delicate balancing act of maintaining financial health while continuing to make the Presidio accessible and welcoming to the public, including people from diverse and underserved communities around the Bay Area. Success will also be determined by the trust’s commitment to building a new kind of national park that has, as stated in its mission, “broad relevance” to the larger world and invests in such purposes as “environmental learning and community betterment.”  The “sweet spot” is realized when there is a clear alignment of goals and where the enactment of each part of the Presidio’s mission strengthens and adds value to the other parts. However, this is never going to be easy or non-controversial.

A case in point is the trust’s request for proposals (RFP) for the “Mid-Crissy” area of the Presidio to establish a “cultural institution of international distinction.”  The project would repurpose the former post commissary site and utilize the newly created parkland connecting the Main Post to Crissy Field.  The site, with its commanding views of the Golden Gate, is the Presidio’s keystone. Whatever is built, according to the RFP’s guidelines, must “integrate well with plans for Crissy Field and the Main Post” and “welcome a broad cross-section of the community in a manner that reflects and reaffirms the public nature of the Presidio.”

One of the two leading contenders in the RFP process has been film director George Lucas, who is proposing to construct the “Lucas Cultural Arts Museum,” a 93,000-square-foot building “highlighting populist art from some of the great illustrators of the last 150 years through today’s digital art.”  In an interim review of the proposals, the trust praised the generosity of George Lucas, who has offered to pay for and endow the museum with his own funds, and noted the broad appeal of the museum’s educational opportunities. The trust raised serious concerns, however, over the proposed Lucas museum’s “massing and height and its architectural style design” which the urban design critic of the San Francisco Chronicle has described as “boilerplate Beaux Arts, ornamentation without imagination.”  The trust also questioned the degree to which the Lucas museum would stand apart from its national park environment, not creating the “programmatic connections that would add value to other park programs throughout the Presidio.”

The other leading RFP contender is the trust’s own partner, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. The conservancy has proposed building a “Presidio Exchange,” a  “park-based cultural center that creates, curates, and hosts unique public experiences at the Presidio … that are Presidio-themed, participatory, and cross-disciplinary.”  The Exchange is designed as a highly versatile performance and learning venue, taking cues from some of the nation’s newest and most successful cultural spaces, such as New York City’s Highline Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park.

In their interim review, the trust recognized the conservancy’s exceptional contributions to the Presidio and throughout Golden Gate National Recreation Area and especially its “ethos of partnership in the public interest.”  The trust commended the conservancy’s approach to the Exchange as “varied, flexible and relevant” but asked for a clearer “master narrative” and more information on public programming.

When all is said and done, the conservancy is offering the Presidio a remarkable opportunity.  There are many parts that make up the new Presidio—emerging neighborhoods, distinctive campuses, and newly preserved landscapes. The Exchange would significantly enhance the Presidio’s overall visibility and coherence as a great public park. Building on all the good work that has already been accomplished, the Exchange has the potential, as well, to position the Presidio in the vanguard of a 21st-century national park system that is working to become more inclusive, more collaborative, and more relevant.

The decision on this RFP will not be the first time the Presidio Trust has had to seek out that “sweet spot” under intense scrutiny and political pressure, nor will it be the last.  With the challenge of self-sufficiency now met, however, it will be a bell weather test of Trust’s fidelity to its public mission and will do much to shape the ultimate contours of the Presidio’s character as a national park.

Given the magnitude and breath of this remarkable 15-year transition from “post to park,” and the many important choices still to be made, I think it is time to give the Presidio greater recognition as a valuable part of our national park system.

A great urban national park laboratory has been created at the Presidio for perfecting sustainable practices in environmental remediation and recovery, historic preservation and park design. Just as importantly, the Presidio is also an opportunity to experiment with new approaches to partnership, community building and civic stewardship.  We should take advantage of all that can be learned – particularly the positive interaction of what we have too often chosen to segregate – nature and culture, public and private, recreation and work, urban and open spaces.

It is time to pay more attention.


NHA@30: The Story of Heritage Areas in New York State

By Guest Observer March 2, 2014

By Paul M. Bray

In the 1970s urban renewal no longer appeared to be a solution to distressed cities. Instead of rejuvenating cities, it increased the destruction of downtown areas. Many city residents were bemoaning the loss of historic properties as urban areas were cleared often with little prospect that they would be rebuilt.

A report coordinated by Lady Bird Johnson analyzed the effects of urban renewal. With Heritage So Rich, an accumulation of essays, called for “an expansive inventory of properties reflecting the nation’s heritage, a mechanism to protect those properties from unnecessary harm caused by federal activities, a program of financial incentives, and an independent federal preservation body to coordinate the actions of federal agencies affecting historic preservation.” The book triggered public awareness of the issue and offered a proposition to handle the situation through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that included the creation of the National Register of Historic Places and the establishment of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and State Historic Preservation Offices.

Cities like Lowell, Massachusetts and the state of Massachusetts looked to historic preservation as a means of revitalizing urban areas. Massachusetts initiated a state heritage area park program for cities like North Adams, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn. It utilized the development of heritage area visitor centers to tell the stories of selected historic cities and started a buzz about heritage areas that spread beyond the state. Lowell came under the eye of the Federal government and initially used the rubric, urban cultural park, to establish a plan that integrated preservation, education, recreation and sustainable development. It ultimately was designated to be a National Historical Park and continues to have an active presence of the National Park Service.

Credit: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York Heritage Areas from

Heritage areas came on to the scene in New York State in 1977 also under the name urban cultural parks. Urban cultural park was a tough name for the public to grasp especially for a notion of park that could encompass whole cities or regions. Even the more than century old Adirondack Park without an entrance gate and with a bit more than half its territory being in private ownership was called a “park in the painful process of becoming a park” on its centenary in 1992. So, to call the neighboring communities of Troy, Cohoes, village and town of Waterford, Watervliet and Green Island an urban cultural park was a stretch. Yet, it was a stretch that offered hope of the emergence of a new generation of park types.

In 1976 the young, newly elected Mayor of Cohoes (now retired Majority Leader of the NYS Assembly) bought into the notion of urban cultural parks as a way to capitalize on the heritage resources of multiple neighboring historic communities. This Mayor Ron Canestrari organized his neighboring mayors and supervisors to designate their collective communities the Hudson Mohawk Urban Cultural Park (HMUCP) and establish an inter-municipal commission to realize a vision of communities capitalizing on their 19th century industrial heritage.

Knickerbocker News editorial editor Duane LeFleche got the idea including an appreciation for the name. It was simple, wrote Duane in an editorial. Take the name urban cultural park apart and you have urban meaning a settled area, culture meaning human attainments (more than the arts) and park meaning there is coherence to the settled area including a shared story of the attainments of its residents over time. The coherence of the HMUCP was the shared story of the industrialization of America including iron and cotton in the 19th century.

Some state legislators also got it and in the 1977 legislative session state legislators like Assemblyman EC Sullivan from Manhattan and Senator Joseph Bruno from Troy introduced two pieces of legislation. One simply designated the HMUCP as a state urban cultural park and directed the state to plan a heritage trail to connect its industrial landmarks and assets. The other took the notion of a city or region as a park and directed the State Parks agency to prepare a plan for a statewide system of urban cultural parks. It was intended to promote preservation, education, recreation and economic development simultaneously through state-local and public-private partnerships. At the time, a planning effort was going on in Lowell, Massachusetts to develop a plan for Lowell to become a national urban cultural park. (It ended up as the Lowell National Historical Park within the National Park System.) Assemblyman Sullivan liked the idea but wondered how you could have a “park” when; for example, the urban cultural park community of Waterford had a McDonalds in it.

The executives in the state park agency were not happy about the urban cultural park legislation. A Deputy Commissioner told me this was only a back door way for distressed communities to get the state to pick up basic municipal costs. For state park officials parks were public estates, some with scenic beauty and others with golf courses, swimming pools and campgrounds. Unlike The New Yorker magazine that did a “Talk of the Town” on the NY Harbor urban cultural park, they could not see how the conditions traditionally associated with parks could be found in urban settings. They much preferred going out and about the state visiting state parks and taking their golf clubs.

Those in the State Parks Agency were perplexed. They didn’t know which of the two urban cultural parks was worst for them from their narrow perspective. If the HMUCP bill passed, they feared it would become the care taker for distressed cities. Yet, the thought of a statewide system of urban cultural parks might be even a greater threat to their peace of mind and golf outings.

At one point during the legislative session a group of State Park Executives including Fred Rath, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, asked to meet with the legislators sponsoring the urban cultural park bills. Meet they did.

Mr. Rath started the conversation by almost poetically saying the urban cultural park notion would be the highest realization of the historic preservation ideal. It would go beyond individual features and even historic districts and encompass the entire narrative of communities and regions. The legislators were impressed. They had hit upon something more significant than they ever imagined.

But then Mr. Rath lowered the boom by declaring there was absolutely no way the state parks agency would be able to administer a program of the magnitude of urban cultural parks. Yes, Deputy Commissioner Al Caccese affirmed that is so.

It was too late for the state parks leadership. The cat was out of the bag and there was no way the legislators would be deterred from passing the urban cultural park legislation after hearing Rath extol the urban cultural park idea. Both urban cultural park bills were passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Hugh Carey.

The state parks agency never had much enthusiasm for urban cultural parks, but doing nothing was not an option. It hired Lane and Frenchman consultants who worked on the City of Lowell urban cultural park and were able to generate interest in many communities in New York.

Outreach to communities across the state from New York City to villages like Sackets Harbor along Lake Ontario and a pilot grant program led to 13 communities doing feasibility studies on their qualifications to become part of a statewide urban cultural park system. A plan for the UCP System was published. Implementing legislation led in large part to enthusiasm of state legislators like Assemblymen Sullivan, Maurice Hinchey and Oliver Koppell was enacted in 1982 and 13 communities including the HMUCP went through the arduous process of preparing their management plans that the state park agency adopted. A driver for the UCPs came in 1986 when Assembly Hinchey got $20 million dollars in the a state environmental quality bond act to be used to pay 100% of the cost of visitor centers in each of the then 14 UCPs.

On the national scene, regional national heritage areas took off in the 1980s. They were established on the basis of individual Congressional legislation and were under the wing of the National Park Service. But they were at best treated as orphans and not fully accepted into the National Park System. The National Park System and the NYS parks agency had something in common in their arms length approach to heritage areas. Yet, one can say that National Heritage Areas thrived, there being 49 National Heritage Areas, which includes 4 in New York State.

The leadership of the state parks agency was never happy with urban cultural parks aka heritage areas and 33 years later with the state having a comprehensive urban cultural park aka heritage area law on the books, 20 state designated heritage areas and 4 National Heritage Areas in existence, the state parks’ executives including the retired Spitzer appointed Commissioner Carol Ash and her successor Acting Commissioner Andy Beers washed their hands of heritage areas without consulting with their state and local heritage area partners or the state legislature. Their excuse was that they couldn’t afford to participate, even though participation was essentially only the part time services of two state employees.

State-local partnership was never appreciated by the State Parks agency. Perhaps in their indifferent approach to heritage areas and a new type of park lies a reason the traditional state park system is so ripe for being picked apart during a recession like the recent one by the Executive branch.

Additional articles: (The heritage area phenomena) (Evolving policies and laws for governance of urban protected areas: New York State’s Landmark Heritage Area System, Ane Books, New Dehli, India, 2003. Paul M. Bray) (The possibility of parks unbounded)



Observations on the Land and Water Conservation Fund

By Guest Observer January 30, 2014

By Tom Wolfe

For Living Landscape Observers who may have lost faith in our elected federal representatives allow me to offer you some insights for the New Year. 2014 has begun with a significant legislative accomplishment in Congress. That’s right, they actually got something done in Washington, DC!

The second session of the 113th Congress began in early January with unfinished business from last year. There was no federal budget passed in time for the beginning of fiscal year 2014, last September. Finally, during the week of January 13, the House and Senate succeeded in resolving their differences and a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill was passed.

The bill became law when the president signed it on January 17 and as a result, funding for and operations of the federal government are insured through the current fiscal year which ends on September 30. Clearly, Congress heard the message of a multitude of Americans who were upset about the October government shutdown which included many inconveniences including the closure of all 401 national parks. After a yearlong battle, Congress has finally decided how to prioritize and spend our hard earned tax dollars. The omnibus bill, H.R. 3547, included a combined package of twelve appropriations bills, which are normally considered individually. The result was a massive bill over 1,500 pages in length which is the yearly spending plan for the federal government.

The agency, most critical to us as outdoor enthusiasts and serves as the overseer of nearly 650 million acres (almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States) the Department of the Interior (DOI), received $ 30.1 billion. This is an increase of $300 million from FY ’13. Included with DOI are funds for the National Park Service which received $2.6 billion. That is an increase of 28.5 million from last year. (For those interested in the Historic Preservation budget visit Preservation Action

Within the Park Service budget is a very important program that helps to permanently protect land and water for all Americans, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Signed into law on September 3, 1964, “the purposes of this Act are to assist in preserving, developing, and assuring accessibility to…present and future generations…such quality and quantity of outdoor recreation resources as may be available and are necessary and desirable for the individual active participation in such recreation and strengthen the health and vitality of the Citizens of the United States.”

Further, “the Act established a funding source for both federal acquisition of park and recreation lands and matching grants to state and local governments for recreation planning, acquisition and development. It set requirements for state planning and provided a formula for allocating annual LWCF appropriations to the States and Territories.”

Since 1965, LWCF has helped to protect nearly 5 million acres of public lands including; the Appalachian Trail and the Grand Canyon through its federal land protection program. And its state assistance program has provided over 3.5 billion in grant funding which has been spent in every county in America.

Thousands of state and community recreation areas, parks, swimming pools, playgrounds, trails, and ball fields have benefited from these state assistance grants. The grants provide a 50% local funding match boosting the total dollar investment to over 7 billion over the history of the program. Based on a formula that provides a minimum share to all states and additional funds based on size, the state assistance program provides much needed support across the country.

The next round of state funds will be apportioned later in the year. In 2013 Vermont received the minimum amount of any state – $349,345 and California received the largest amount – $3,414,784. In the newly passed bill LWCF received $306 million. Of that total, only $42 million will go toward state assistant grants. Unfortunately, this reflects a trend of insufficient funding for the states fueled by a misconception in Congress that LWCF is nothing but a program used to expand the portfolio of federally owned lands. In its most recent State and Local Assistance Program Annual Report, the National Park Service shows $18 billion in unmet needs (the yearly sum of unfunded outdoor recreation projects submitted for LWCF grants) from the states.

While the LWCF was not meant to fulfill all the needs of the states for outdoor recreation funding sadly, it falls well short of its intended contribution. As prescribed by language of the Act that was passed in 1964, the LWCF expires in September 2015. Therefore, it must be renewed in order to continue. Consequently, 2014 will be a critical year to demonstrate support for LWCF.

Chances are that the park, recreation area, swimming pool, baseball field, soccer field or playground near you has received an LWCF state grant matched with local funding. Each and every one of us needs to contact our senators and congressmen to deliver a simple message: America needs to keep the Land and Water Conservation Fund and increased funding should be directed to the state assistance fund. We all benefit now and we owe it to future generations to preserve places to hike, play, swim, walk a dog or simply observe nature.

Tom Wolfe, is a Washington, DC based public affairs consultant and advocate for parks and recreation. He is a former chief of congressional and legislative affairs for the National Park Service and also served as the federal representative for state parks. Tom can be reached here


A Holistic Approach to Open Space

By Guest Observer January 2, 2014

By Paul Bray

Lake at Sunset  Credit: Rensselear Plateau Alliance

Lake at Sunset
Credit: Rensselear Plateau Alliance

When David Sampson was director of the Hudson River Greenway, he would say that Troy in Rensselaer County is Albany’s Georgetown (referring to Georgetown in Washington, D.C.). As much as I like Troy, I thought it was a bit of stretch. Yet each time I go to Troy from my home in Albany, I increasingly see what Sampson was talking about, as Troy has character, some top quality urban housing and neighborhoods, and walkability.

Now I see something else very special in Rensselaer County: the Rensselaer Plateau. This eastern portion of Rensselaer County is our region’s Adirondack Park.

The plateau has 105,000 acres and is approximately 10 miles wide and 30 miles long. It is 25 percent of the county’s land area and is the fifth largest forest in our state. It is a scenic and recreational area for the whole Capital Region, with opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, boating, swimming, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, fishing and hunting on public land on the plateau and where private landowners allow it. The plateau is significant in at least two ways — its natural and heritage resources, and its locally initiated comprehensive regional approach to conservation.

Its rich natural resources include contiguous northern forest unbroken by roads and homes, the headwaters of seven watersheds, interesting geologic formations and extensive wildlife. The Audubon Society has designated the plateau as an important bird area because it supports forest breeders including at-risk species like the wood thrush, northern goshawk and Canada warbler.

Its heritage features include the remnants of abandoned farms and mills. Many stone walls that separated fields remain, along with some high bush blueberries that were once a cash crop.

The plateau includes all or part of 10 rural towns and has many small land owners. It is not easy to have partnerships in this mix that can set mutual priorities, share resources and collaborate effectively. Zoning to manage land uses is rare and generally viewed as a threat by small landowners.

In the 1980s, I received a call from an official of one of the towns in the plateau, asking for help. Someone from Westchester County wanted to develop a trailer park in the caller’s town. I asked if the town had zoning or subdivision regulations. The answer was “no.” I was asked if I could I still help. I pointed to some state laws and regulation relating to land use, and it turned out to be enough to hold off the trailer park.

I was able to help another plateau town without zoning in the next year, but I told the official I would not do this again if his town and neighboring towns were not willing to do comprehensive planning and adopt zoning and planning laws.

In light of my experience with the plateau towns, I was impressed when I learned that a grassroots organization, the nonprofit Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, had organized and successfully engaged public and private stakeholders in a comprehensive approach to foster conservation across property lines and political jurisdictions. So far, the alliance, with support from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, has gotten the plateau designated as a Forest Legacy Area by the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Legacy Program helps protect participating forest lands from conversion to non-forest uses.

The plateau is one of 165 conservation initiatives in the Northeast, from West Virginia to Maine, applying “a whole systems, large landscape approach” as part of a project by the Regional Plan Association. We are seeing a change in focus from state parks that are gated and publicly owned to protected and managed landscapes that are “vital for managing watersheds and habitats and addressing long-term issues like climate change” as well as meeting recreational needs. What’s happening on the plateau is a good example of the new holistic, participatory approach to open space.

First published in the Times Union (Albany New York) December 8, 2013



NPS Names First Superintendent for Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

By Guest Observer October 31, 2013

One of America’s newest national parks now has its first superintendent. Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach has selected Cherie Butler, a 21-year veteran of the National Park Service, as superintendent of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument. Butler has been serving as the monument’s acting superintendent since March of this year.

Established by Presidential Proclamation on March 25, 2013, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, a fearless woman who enabled many enslaved people to emancipate themselves and escape to freedom in the North. The new national monument is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as an enslaved person and conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Established by Congress in 1998, The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program of the National Park Service works in collaboration with local, state, and federal entities to promote programs and partnerships to commemorate, preserve sites and other resources associated with, and to educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad.

Key sites in Harriet Tubman National Monument include Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by free and enslaved people, including Tubman, between 1810 and the 1830s. Stewart’s Canal is part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refugeand, although part of the new national monument, it will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The monument also includes the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free Black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others. The Jacob Jackson Home Sitewas donated to the National Park Service by The Conservation Fund for inclusion in the new national monument. The State of Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center will be another key site in the national monument when it opens in 2015.


The Italian-New York Connections on Parks and Protected Areas

By Guest Observer October 30, 2013

By Paul Bray

For 6 months in 1996-97 I had the opportunity of living at the American Academy in Rome as a recipient of a Rome Prize.

As an advocate of parks, protected areas and historic preservation in New York State and beyond, my interest has been less with the traditional public estate parks (local, state and national) and more with area wide parks, greenways, landscapes and heritage areas like the six million acre Adirondack Park, the 3 million acre Hudson River Greenway and state and national heritage areas.

I expected to find historic landscapes in Italy that were being managed as parks, but thanks to the emerging effect of the European Union (“EU”) I found more park interest and activity than I expected. The EU set a standard for each EU nation to have at least 10% of its land mass be managed as park or protected area. At the time this standard was established Italy had only 4 National Parks and 1% of its land mass protected. By 2000 Italy could claim it met the 10% standard and it had more than 20 national parks complemented by regional parks like Alpi Apuana, a mountain top region of northern Tuscany with the marble mines that provided the marble used by Michelangelo.

My interaction with Italian park and conservationists was interesting and enriching. As an American, I was welcomed as a national of a nation with the global Mecca of parks, Yellowstone National Park.

Yet, as I got to know the Italians and told them about the Adirondack Park and our heritage areas, we had a new and unexpected common ground. I was not the “know it all American” but someone who admired and wanted to learn about Italian parks like the Italian Abruzzo National Park, the Po Delta Park and the Pisa Regional Parks.

Abruzzo landscape. Photo: Wikimedia commons user Wento

Abruzzo landscape. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia commons user Wento

The Abruzzo Park about 2 hours from Rome and Naples in the Apennines was a small 100,000 acre model of the Adirondack Park, but it was also awesome in its beautiful surround of 6,000 foot mountains, its medieval villages strung along its basin and its remarkable wild life including a sustainable population of 50 wolves. The wild life was nurtured at the same time eco-development was fostered in the Park’s villages through, for example, visitor centers in each village and stores selling products of the park. This was happening as mountain villages in other parts of Italy were dying.

To make a long story short, ties were established between parks and protected areas in New York State and Italy. A conference with Italians from all parts of Italy was held in Rome at the American Academy and a couple of the Italians suggested “twinning” Italian and American parks like sister cities. A description of some of the twinning activity can be found at the following:

As a result of the Great Recession in 2008 and some changes in leadership in some of the parks, the formal exchanges have declined. Now the only formal, ongoing twinning is between the Central Pine Barrens on Long Island and the Pisa Regional Parks. Thanks to the assistance from the Brookhaven Lab and the links for ongoing, real time through camcorders biodiversity projects that were established between schools on Long Island and Pisa, the Pisa-LI twinning continues. Informally, contacts continue between people that where involved in the other formal twinnings. Contacts between planners and academics in Italy and the USA led to the recent publication of Parks and Territories: New Perspectives and Strategies edited by Francesco Morandi, Federico Niccolini and Massimo Sargolini. Retired Professor Roberto Gambino is coordinating another book of articles on park and landscape planning.

The Italian-NYS park twinning fits very well with the observation of Canadian’s J.Gordon Nelson and Lucy M. Sportza in their article ‘The Evolving Shift in Protected Area Thought and Practice”:

We are living in a shifting and evolving framework for protected areas, nature conservation and sustainable development. This situation is marked by the involvement of many government agencies and private groups not only in the lands and waters in and around protected areas, but those that are far away. In these circumstances concerned agencies and private groups cannot easily regulate or direct on another’s activities. Civic arrangements need to be encouraged so that the array of stakeholders concerned about protected areas, nature conservation and sustainable development can learn mutually for one another and find ways to communicate, negotiate, plan and act in the individual and the common interest. In this respect pluralism needs to be explicitly recognized and to be dealt with in a collaborative rather than a predominantly or exclusively corporate manner. The human dimension of protected area planning, management and decision making requires as much attention as science at the local, provincial or state, national and international scales of thought and practice.

The human dimension of the park twinning which included park officials, managers, advocates and various stakeholders allowed many to “learn mutually from one another and find ways to communicate, negotiate, plan and act in the individual and common interest”. Mutual learning complemented by ongoing communication continues.


Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project Wins National Award

By Guest Observer September 30, 2013
Credit: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Heritage Project documents the impact of farming on the state’s economy and culture.

By Dr. Sally McMurry

The term “gray literature” well conveys the level of visibility for much work done at agencies like the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office. Historic Structures Reports, National Register nominations, exhibits, and drawings may have limited long-term public exposure even though they are often based on high-quality research and analysis. The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) has recognized that these efforts often make exemplary contributions to our understanding of the built environment, and the organization honors such work through the Paul E. Buchanan Award. VAF spokesman Michael Chiarappa has characterized the award as a “testament to VAF’s commitment to civic engagement and the idea that broad participation in the study and understanding of vernacular landscapes provides an indispensible social good.” We are proud to announce that the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project is the 2013 winner.

The VAF established the Buchanan Award in 1993 to honor Paul E. Buchanan, for many years the Director of Architectural Research at Colonial Williamsburg. Mr. Buchanan had a legendary reputation as a master interpreter and field observer; according to the VAF website, he “set the standard for architectural fieldwork in America” and mentored many who went on to make important contributions in the field. Past Buchanan Award winners have included field reports, exhibits, public programming, digital media productions, restoration projects, and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documentation. According to 2013 prize committee chair Michael Chiarappa, the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project merited the award for providing “unprecedented guidance in studying Pennsylvania’s agricultural landscapes” and establishing “a framework for honoring and protecting them” through National Register listing.

The VAF was founded in 1980 to promote the study and preservation of ordinary buildings and landscapes from all times and places. The term “vernacular” is flexible and has come to encompass not only building types but methodologies as well. Vernacular architecture study emphasizes social and cultural context and commonly employs analytical tools from diverse disciplines – anthropology, gender studies, and the like. The organization’s membership comes from diverse backgrounds. Some work in academic institutions in disciplines like anthropology, folklore, geography, history, architectural history, and art history. Others staff (and often lead) museums, government agencies, and private firms. All share a passionate commitment to understanding and celebrating everyday landscapes, from colonial era folk housing to 20th-century suburban enclaves to industrial complexes. With over 600 members in the US and other countries, the VAF has been a major contributor to a fundamental rethinking of which buildings and landscapes are valuable (and why), and how to study them.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project’s emphasis on typical agricultural buildings and landscapes is very much in keeping with the VAF’s founding principles. From the outset, the project framework treated Pennsylvania’s agricultural past broadly. For example, it acknowledged that diversified production prevailed until the mid-20th century and developed ways of portraying different kinds of diversified farming. As importantly, the conceptualization went beyond soils, topography, and markets to include social factors like land tenure, cultural repertoires, the gender organization of farm work, political factors, and labor systems. This approach accounts for ALL historic resources on a farm — it doesn’t stop with just the house and barn. Now we can better understand the tenant houses, “mansion” houses, multiple barn granaries, large machine sheds, and crop rotation patterns that typify the Central Valleys. We can see the role of cultural repertoires in making a three-bay “English” barn different from a three-bay German “ground” barn from the same period. We can appropriately interpret the Adams and Erie County fruit-belt areas where migrant workers were so important, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania region where much depended on women’s labor in home dairying. In turn, by enumerating specifically and comprehensively the buildings and landscape features typical for each region, the Registration Requirements allow users to assess a property’s eligibility quickly and accurately.

Finally, the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project products are good examples of VAF’s commitment to public education and outreach. The entire corpus of work is accessible on the Web. This includes census maps and manuscripts, a Researcher’s Guide, narratives for each of the state’s sixteen historic agricultural regions, a bibliography, farm survey forms, and (my favorite) an Agricultural Field Guide to help users identify barns, outbuildings, and landscape features. We hope that this accessible, powerful, award-winning tool will result in more National Register nominations from Pennsylvania’s historic farming community.

Sally McMurry is Professor of History at Penn State University (University Park) and served as Principal Investigator for the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project.

This post first appeared on August 21, 2013, in “Pennsylvania Historic Preservation” the Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office and is reprinted with the permission of the that office


Adirondack Park: Landscape No Longer Contested

By Guest Observer September 2, 2013
Guideboater on Long Lake Adirondack. Credit: Adirondack Council

Guideboater on Long Lake Adirondack. Credit: Adirondack Council

When I was a bill-drafter for then-state Assembly Environmental Committee Chairman Maurice Hinchey in the 1980s, I accompanied him to meet with a group of local government officials in the Adirondack Park. The town supervisors complained nonstop about Adirondack Park Agency, the state agency implementing the state’s Adirondack Private Land Use Plan.

They didn’t like the plan’s strict density restrictions for private development and that a majority of the APA members came from outside the Adirondack Park. Almost half of the Park land is public “forever wild” forest land and therefore outside the bounds for development.

Hinchey listened respectfully as the local officials complained about land use control by outsiders. In the case of the Park, the courts ruled that an overarching state interest justified state control rather than local control. When the local officials finished with their complaints, one supervisor conceded that if the State had not intervened in the park, there would be no local land use planning.

A couple of years later, then-Manhattan Assemblyman Pete Grannis proposed to Sen. Ron Stafford, the leading Adirondack Park legislator, legislation for a study on how to promote tourism for the whole Park. Stafford agreed, and I drafted the bill.

The Adriondack Park includes a number of county tourism promotion agencies that received state funds for tourism promotion. Language was included in the bill that nothing in the recommendations would limit the roles of the existing tourism agencies. The director of one such agency complained to Stafford about the bill, and he withdrew it.

Credit: Adirondack Council

On Pitchoff Mountain in Adirondack Park. Credit: Adirondack Council

These two anecdotes exemplify why Eleanor F. Brown wrote on the occasion of the Park’s 1992 Centennial that “the Adirondack Park is still undergoing the painful process of creation” and Adirondack writer Phil Terrie titled one of his books on the Park “Contested Landscape.”

Before the Adirondack Park was created by the State Legislature in 1891, the Forest Commission that would be responsible for its management correctly forecast that it could not “call the Adirondack Park into existence by the touch of a wand.”

It’s long past time for the creation of an Adirondack Park that is truly an inspirational, educational, recreational, ecological and economically sustainable. That potential was very visible at the seventh annual Adirondack Common Ground Alliance Forum that occurred in July in the town of Newcomb. The forum’s theme was collaboration, with less “us versus them” and less “infighting and fragmentation.”

Many individuals and entities have played a role in creating the Adirondack Park’s recent progress. Common ground started an open discourse to find what the people in the Adirondack Park agreed upon. The state provided $1 million for smart growth planning that wasn’t just for Main Street projects but included, for example, funding to bring broadband to the entire region.

Outreach engaged neighboring regional economic development entities like the Center for Economic Growth in the Capital Region and the North Country Chamber of Commerce. This helped join three of the governor’s regional economic development councils with portions of the park to work together to finance the Adirondack Park Recreation Web Portal Project to promote recreation in the whole park.

Unlike the ill-fated Grannis-Stafford bill, this time support came from all sectors of the park, including the tourism agencies. Local officials like Bill Farber, the Morehead town supervisor as well as the Hamilton County legislative chairman, are successfully advocating for holistic regional planning.

It helped when Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Adirondack Challenge that included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a whitewater raft race in Indian Lake.


Baxter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Credit: Adirondacks Council

From what I saw at the Newcomb Forum, the Park’s former contested landscape is becoming a more collaborative landscape.


This article originally appeared in the Albany Times Union on August 12, 2013


Albany’s Downtown and Tomorrow’s Prospects

By Guest Observer July 31, 2013
Credit: Jean Mackay, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Downtown Schenectady, NY could provide a model for development in other communities.

By Paul Bray

The buzz over the desire of some to have an Albany aquarium built is what Yogi Berra called “déjà vu all over again”.

When I read about Omni Development Co. President I. David Swawite’s proposal for an aquarium in downtown Albany on a site reserved for a proposed convention center, I went back to a column I wrote for the Times Union in September 1998. It was about a proposal for a downtown aquarium and IMAX Theater that a group from Mayor Jenning’s Capitalize Albany advisors and the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) brought back from a visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee

I feel the same today about the aquarium notion as I did in 1998. Simply stated, a unique and culturally rich city like Albany should invest in its assets and strengths developed over time like its heritage, established institutions, great architecture and streets, parks, river front and neighborhoods rather than investing in entertainment attractions like an aquarium.

I suggested in the column that we should have a civic debate over which path to take, investing in entertainment or in local assets. We did not have the civic debate. We don’t have an aquarium or the Mayor’s passion, a convention center.

When it comes to Albany’s assets, the historic St. Joseph’s Church, an Albany icon, remains empty without a plan for its future. But we have built attractive and well sited new public schools and public libraries.

Mayor Jennings hasn’t given up on getting a convention center. Too bad in 1998 he ignored a consultant’s report recommending a dramatic upgrade of the Empire State Plaza’s convention and meeting facilities to include a 28,000-square-foot ballroom and another 3,800 square feet of meeting and service space for an estimated cost of $18 to $19 million. The new ballroom, when combined with the New York Museum’s Terrace Gallery, will provide spectacular, one-of-a-kind setting that can become the signature function space of Albany’s public assembly offering.”

In contrast to Albany’s civic fumbling, the recent Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor’ conference in Schenectady on “Where Canal Meets Commercial Corridor, Unlocking Investment Opportunities in Your Downtown” offered many ideas.

Much of the event focused on introducing the relatively new approach of “locavesting” and “crowdfunding” as a means of attracting entrepreneurs, developers and project funding to downtowns. It exemplified how heritage areas can be a creative force to downtown development.

Crowdfunding, according to Woody Neiss of Crowdfund Capital Advisors, “is not about ‘finding the next Facebook’ -Silicon Valley does a robust job of that already. It’s about finding and funding ‘the next 1 or 100,000 Main Street startups’ that will create jobs and help build strong and prosperous communities. It’s social media meets community finance.”

Needless to say, Albany needs Main Street startups.

David Buicko, CEO of the Galesi Group, also spoke at the conference. This traditional, locally based developer gave a long list of downtown development projects in Schenectady that involved the Galesi Group. They included the Bowtie 11 screen cinema and the new Golub Corporate Headquarters amongst an impressive array of large and small development that is reviving Downtown Schenectady.

Buicko highlighted the promising Alco project. It involves cleaning up a contaminated brownfield and turning it into a Mohawk River Harbor. It would be the first river front “life style center” with lots of dockage for boats in our Hudson and Mohawk river cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

Hopefully the dust up over the aquarium proposal entwined with the unrealized convention center proposal is just the last gasp of Albany’s way of failing.

Progressive, new leadership in the Mayor’s office unconnected from the old ways of running a city can be a catalyst for creatively engaging developers like the Galesi Group, nonprofit community organizations like the Community Loan Fund, heritage areas like the Erie Canalway, the Hudson River National Heritage Area and the Albany Heritage Area. Potential partners and Albany’s citizenry need to work with the next mayor in the spirit one can find in Schenectady.


Remembering J.B. Jackson: Widen Your Horizons – Then Dig Deeper

By Guest Observer July 31, 2013

By John Sinton

A sketch by the mother of John Sinton author of the article "Remembering JB Jackson"

A sketch of John Brinckerhoff Jackson by Nell Sinton, the mother of John Sinton.

In preparing for a cross-country road trip this summer, I’ll be packing a bunch of books, such as the Federal Writers’ Project state tours from the 1930s, and all along the roadways I’ll be carrying J.B. Jackson in my mind. Jackson, known to his friends as Brinck, was my mother’s close friend and my most important mentor during my middle age.

J.B. Jackson, born in 1909 six months before my mother, died a year before her in 1996. He and my mother met in the 1970s when he was lecturing during spring semester at U.C. Berkeley, and I came to know him through his writings and, in his last two decades, as a friend and counselor.

The details of his life and work reveal the breadth of his skill, education, and experience that informed all his work. Born in France of well-to-do American parents, early education in France and Switzerland, prep school at Deerfield, graduated from Harvard where he was interested in writing and architecture, worked as a journalist for a year, traveled through central Europe on a motorcycle sketching and taking notes in the mid 30s, worked as a ranch hand in the late 30s on his uncle’s New Mexico ranch, enlisted in the US Army in 1940 where he was in intelligence, using his French and German fluency to comb the libraries of Europe and prepare geographic information and maps, he finally returned to the ranch in New Mexico after the war, only to get his leg shattered while horseback riding. By the time he was 30, he had become a skilled artist, writer, historian, linguist, geographer, soldier, and rancher.

He founded and edited the quirky journal Landscape from 1951-1968, a publication highly sought by some of America’s best minds in landscape, geography, photography, and architecture. He is, in fact, the American father of landscape studies. He became a master essayist, and most of his work is collected in his many books. (Horowitz, Helen, ed. 1997. Landscape in Sight: Looking at America.)

Everyone who knew Brinck Jackson or has read his works has a favorite quote. Here is one of mine:

No group sets out to create a landscape, of course. What it sets out to do is to create a community, and the landscape as its visible manifestation is simply the by-product of people working and living, sometimes coming together, sometimes staying apart, but always recognizing their interdependence.

By John Brinckerhoff Jackson

A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time by John Brinckerhoff Jackson

Jackson’s work revels in details from which emerge his landscape analyses. He never ceased honing his writing and sketching skills and always embraced the world surrounding him, skewering his colleagues’ banal comments, while delighting in his friends and especially enjoying a good meal.

His final advice to me, when I was on a Fulbright in Cologne, Germany in 1994-95 was as follows:

On the subject of roads – in Germany – have you ever read W.H. Riehl’s “Die Naturgeschichte des deutsche Volkes (trans: The Natural History of the German People)” It is a fascinating, very romantic study of the German attitudes toward their landscapes: roads, houses, forest, etc – a really pioneering study. His remarks…on the establishment of highways is worth reading, as well as his remarks that German coachmen and postilions preferred bad roads because they gave the drivers a chance to show off their skill and bravery… My copy I stole from the house of Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s cultural guru.

I would urge all landscape observers to take along Brinck Jackson this summer. Get to know him as a friendly prod. Let him give you some advice: Develop a sense of yourself by becoming part of the larger world. Read widely and deeply in many fields. Don’t limit yourself. Learn another language and travel in that country. Search voraciously for small details and be circumspect in your quest for proscriptive solutions. Work in a landscape, work with your hands. Become Erasmus’s proverbial fox: Multa novit vulpes, verum echinus unum magnum – The fox knows many things, the hedgehog one big one. So leave your hedgehog behind this summer and cultivate the fox in you.

John Sinton is a retired professor of environmental studies and land-use planning, has spent most of his professional life writing about and working on rivers in the US and Europe. He currently contributes to a number of land preservation projects and co-authored The Connecticut River Boating Guide: Source to Sea with his wife, Wendy Sinton, and Elizabeth Farnsworth. He lives in Florence, MA and is a confirmed river rat and fly fisherman, as well as skier, hiker and biker.

For a biography and bibliography of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, see Paul Groth’s article in the American National Biography Online.



The World Heritage Convention and the National Park Service

By Guest Observer June 28, 2013

Peter Stott wrote the following commentary as the conclusion to a series of three essays on the role of the National Park Service in the World Heritage Convention.  The essays were published in successive issues of the George Wright Forum 28:3 (2011), pp.279-290; 29:1 (2012) , pp.148-175; and 30:1 (2013) pp.18-44. This epilogue provides a strong case for the value of the United State’s (US) participation in the World Heritage Convention. It is reprinted with the permission and support of the George Wright Society.

The World Heritage Convention and the National Park Service

Epilogue: Into the next half-century

As the last of this series of essays comes to an end, it seems fitting to restate the original intention of the United States in proposing the convention. Conservation was the original goal, as first articulated by the convention’s US proponents; identification of sites with outstanding universal value was the means to that end, not the goal. The emphasis on conservation must remain the convention’s true aim and the US implementation of it. Based on the foregoing review of the Park Service’s role in the convention, the writer offers some thoughts on the US role in the convention in the next half century.

The 2011 admission of Palestine as a member state of UNESCO (and a state party to the convention) has triggered two US laws from the 1990s prohibiting the US payment of dues to UNESCO or to the World Heritage Fund. While the non-payment of dues may not affect the ability of the US to vote in the General Assembly, it would limit the effectiveness of any moral leadership the US might try to exercise. The international suggestions below assume that this state of affairs is of no long duration.

View of Yosemite National Park, a world heritage site in the United States. Photo by Dan Stern.

View of Yosemite National Park, a world heritage site in the United States. Photo by Dan Stern.

Concerning the World Heritage Committee: Since its most recent service on the com­mittee ended in 2009, the US has remained an active participant in World Heritage meetings. A fully engaged US delegation can continue to help guide the convention’s development, whether as observer or as a member of the committee. In the absence of a strong chair, or articulate members, it takes very little to prevent the committee from taking a “course of least resistance” in making its decisions, often adopting politically motivated decisions in opposition to advisory body recommendations, its Operational Guidelines, or even its own Rules of Procedure. But as this history has shown, any display of intellectual rigor or institutional memory by a committee member (or in some cases by an observer delegation) is often picked up by other members and can change the direction of discussion. The US and other delegations that care about the conservation goals and the integrity of the convention must be vigilant.

The biennial election of committee members at the General Assembly could be more effectively used to ensure that candidates are focused on conservation rather than on the national self-interest. While the US never announces in advance its voting decisions, it can, with like-minded states, announce that it will only vote for those candidates that publicly pledge to put forward no nominations of sites in their own territories during their mandates (the US itself made this pledge when it ran for election to the committee in 2005). The US could also make it clear that states which pledge to give a role to heritage experts (as required by the convention) would be favored. Both expectations were recommendations of the 2011 audit discussed above.54

World Heritage expert meetings in the United States: Over the years, many countries have sponsored expert meetings to foster exchanges on specific technical subjects. An occasional expert meeting hosted at a relevant US World Heritage site would not only be a significant contribution to the World Heritage community, it could also give US site managers and their staffs a role in, and the experience of, international meetings. Possible topics might include those the US and Canada have already expressed an interest in, at the time of the 2005 Periodic Report: how to recognize the importance of local populations residing within and/or adjacent to natural World Heritage sites; or a discussion of guidelines for evaluating visual impacts on World Heritage properties.

Concerning bilateral partnerships: In creating the Office of International Affairs in 1961, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall explicitly recognized the role that the National Park Service should play in sharing its expertise with other countries. “We must,” he said, invoking the European phrase of the moment, “establish a Common Market of conservation knowledge and endeavor.”55 Nearly a half century later, this commitment was reiterated in the final report of the National Parks Second Century Commission, the blue-ribbon panel commissioned for the upcoming National Park Service centennial in 2016.56 As the National Park Service embarks on its second half-century in international cooperation, it must continue to renew its bilateral relationships, which are mutually beneficial both to NPS and to its resource management partners in other countries.

One of the founding programs in bilateral relations was the International Short Course in the Administration of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves. “That was one tangible element of leadership,” former Assistant NPS Director for Natural Resources Mike Soukup recalled, “that was unmistakably successful. Throughout my career whenever I met with foreign Park people, they would say to me, ‘You need to put that back together. That was so important to my career . .. to my country .. . to the world, that you had that course available and funded’ … That’s the one thing we could do internationally,” Soukup said, “that would restore a healthy leadership position for the Park Service and for the nation, in the eyes of a tremendous amount of people around the world.”57

The second program that should be restarted is the cooperative program with the Peace Corps. For over a quarter of a century, between 1972 and 2000, the National Park Service had an active partnership with the Peace Corps to assist other nations in developing national parks, providing training to Peace Corps volunteers in park planning, management, and interpretation. In an era of disengagement, the program was allowed to expire in 2001. With the support of USAID, it should be renewed.

Concerning US World Heritage sites: The network of World Heritage sites in the US needs to be reinforced. Site managers attending the 1992 Santa Fe meeting have repeatedly stressed how important the meeting was to them, and how beneficial the subsequent meetings. Both Dick Ring, former superintendent of Everglades, and Dave Mihalic, former superintendent of Glacier, recalled the loss of institutional knowledge that was inherent in the movement of site managers around the park system. “The best thing about [the Santa Fe] meeting,” Mihalic said, “was the fact that all the mangers were able to get in one place, including the non-Park Service sites—the Cahokia Mounds, Monticello managers—and not just to understand things all at the same time. But it was a great way to start thinking in a bigger picture, more strategic manner.”58 “It would be enormously valuable,” Ring said, “to see some resources set aside to support the convening of the US World Heritage site managers.” These network activities, Ring added, could also reinforce the international goals of the Park Service: “It would be very easy to make sure that whenever there is a convening of US managers, that there is an invitation extended to the hemisphere or thematically to similar sites around the world to make a focus, and to invite those folks in, and help support bringing them there.”59

Concerning nomination of future World Heritage sites in the United States. Recalling the original goals of the convention, and its emphasis on outstanding universal value and conservation, the US must decide its own course, regardless of the decisions taken by other countries, concerning the composition of the List of World Heritage sites in the United States. The US should seriously consider what a potentially finite number of World Heritage sites in the US would look like. The list of natural World Heritage sites in the US seems well on its way toward fully representing natural biogeographic provinces, but what cultural heritage sites uniquely represent US history and pre-history? (If natural sites represent important biogeographic provinces, what analogous cultural themes should be represented by cultural properties?) Will it simply be a more rarified list of thousands of national historic landmarks? Or does “outstanding universal value” have a more substantive meaning? This is not a process that lends itself to volunteer, grassroots proposals. A rigorous discussion and analysis should identify defining historical themes, and only then examine how those themes might be best represented. The US already has management and legal provisions that set the country apart from the way all others manage World Heritage nominations; policies that adhere to a unified and substantive interpretation of outstanding universal value is a logical extension of those management requirements. But there is no inherent urgency to the inscription of World Heritage sites: a good candidate will always be eligible, whether its nomination comes one year, twenty years, or fifty years from now.


54. Recommendations 11 and 12, “Final Report of the Audit of the Global Strategy and the PACT Initiative,” (2011), UNESCO Working Document WHC-11/18.GA/INF.8.

55. Stewart L. Udall, “Nature Islands for the World,” keynote address to the First World Conference on National Parks, in First World Conference on National Parks, Alexander B. Adams, ed. (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1962), pp. 1-10.

56. National Parks Second Century Commission. Advancing the National Park Idea: Na­tional Parks Second Century Commission Report (Washington, DC: National Parks Con­servation Association, 2009), p. 24.

57. Mike Soukup interview, 27 July 2009.

58. Dave Mihalic interview, 18 February 2010.

59. Dick Ring interview, 10 July 2009.

Peter Stott was formerly (1996-2006) a staff member of the World Heritage Committee’s secretariat, the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO in Paris. Prior to his time at the Centre, between 1992 and 1995, he attended the World Heritage Committee sessions and wrote a nightly e-mail “blog” (before the term existed), as an observer affiliated with ICOMOS, He is currently a preservation planner at the Massachusetts Historical Commission.


Featured Landscape: Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

By Guest Observer June 7, 2013

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

By Suzanne Copping, Project Manager, Star-Spangled Banner Trail

Paddlers on the upper Patuxent River during the annual Patuxent Sojourn paddle. Credit: Jane Thomas, IAN-UMES

Paddlers on the upper Patuxent River during the annual Patuxent Sojourn paddle. Credit: Jane Thomas, IAN-UMES

When the US Congress designated the Appalachian Trail in 1968, it paved the way for a nationwide network of long-distance scenic, historic and recreation trails. Today the National Trails System encompasses 11 national scenic trails, 19 national historic trails, and 1200 recreation trails, totaling over 54,000 miles, longer than the nation’s interstate highway system. The system was created as a tool to “provide for the ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding population and in order to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation…” 45 years later, national trails continue to provide a means for the public to recreate and reflect. Long-distance trails easily align with recent initiatives in the health, education, and stewardship fields to connect more people, and especially youth, with trails as outdoor classrooms and places for exploration.

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is one of the newer trails in the System, designated in 2008 to commemorate the events and outcomes of the War of 1812, and in particular those that led to and followed Francis Scott Key’s writing of the National Anthem. National historic trails commemorate significant long-distance routes along original trails or routes of travel. They foster protection of trail resources and landscapes evocative of the time period, and offer learning and recreation opportunities for the public. The Star-Spangled Banner Trail traverses over 550 miles of historic land and water routes in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, connecting dozens of national and state parks, historic sites and districts, museums, and parks.

The trail works with federal, state and local partners to encourage War of 1812-related resource protection, place-based education,

Interpretive signage for the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail in Leonardtown, MD.

Interpretive signage for the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail in Leonardtown, MD.

and recreation. Leading up to and through the 2012-2015 bicentennial period, state and federal funding, including $1.8 million in Scenic Byways funding awarded to Maryland in 2009, has helped to make the trail, which follows almost 400 miles of waterways and 200 miles of public roads, visible and visitor-ready in record time. Trail development projects include route marking signage, orientation and interpretive signage, a website, a mobile app, a map guide, and a travel guide. Teacher training, online resources for students, and exhibits have expanded educational opportunities. A 20-year management plan completed in 2012 identifies additional interpretation, infrastructure, resource protection, and management actions to sustain investments beyond 2015.

Urban and rural communities alike have embraced the bicentennial, and the trail, to encourage economic development and new infrastructure. Examples include:

  • In Baltimore City, Baltimore National Heritage Area, Johns Hopkins University and three community development corporations along Eastern Avenue in Baltimore City are funding streetscape improvements along the trail route including flags and banners, educational materials for residents and visitors, and community festivals, such as the lighting of 15,000 candles on the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore.
  • Outside the city, NPS, Maryland, and Baltimore County have aligned over $1 million for streetscaping and infrastructure improvements to ten acres of battlefield to provide outdoor recreation opportunities and inspire local awareness and stewardship of community assets.
  • 40 miles north, the City of Havre de Grace, Maryland has conducted extensive community outreach to create a new visitor center exhibit, travelling exhibits, a walking tour, signage, an online resource library, and teacher training. Community events showcase the city’s 1812 history with a lifespan beyond the bicentennial period.
  • 70 miles south, NPS and Charles County and residents and businesses in tiny Benedict, Maryland have tapped into bicentennial funding to revitalize the waterfront in time for fall 2014 festivities. New public access, recreation amenities, and outdoor public spaces will also educate visitors about the town’s 1812 history. British landing site on the Patuxent River.
Public programming along the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Public programming along the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail at Concord Point Lighthouse in Maryland

After 2015, trail efforts will shift toward increasing programming and building the capacity of trail partners. Actions identified in the trail’s management plan include training for outfitters, tour guides, and front-line staff; teacher workshops and adult learning; building a volunteer network; improving access to and marking of water routes; and increased efforts relative to research and resource protection. In addition to educating the public about the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, these actions tap into the health, education, and stewardship interests of the National Park Service, regional partner networks and communities through which the trail travels.

For more information, visit:

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail,

Chesapeake Explorer App (for iPhone and Android devices)

National Trails System

Maryland’s War of 1812 Bicentennial