10 Things You Might Not Know About Our National Parks

 
 

What do a giant coffee pot, a billionaire's mansion, and the California desert have in common? Find out as we de-bunk the National Park System in celebration of the 100th anniversary of our nation's National Parks!


Items for sale on Olvera Street adjacent to the Avila Adobe, a museum managed by California State Parks

Items for sale on Olvera Street adjacent to the Avila Adobe, a museum managed by California State Parks

1. NATIONAL PARKS ARE ANOTHER WAY TO SHOP LOCAL. 

Research has shown that every dollar spent in a community is spent again in the same community at least twice (Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities, 39.) Since National Parks and other sites under control of the National Park Service are often located within or adjacent to residential areas, the dollars these places generate through tourism and other outreach efforts help further local economies nationwide. 

 

 
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is the nation's second-oldest, est. 1890

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is the nation's second-oldest, est. 1890

2. NATIONAL PARKS ACTUALLY DATE BACK 144 YEARS. 

Even though the National Park Service (NPS) was formed on August 25, 1916, Yellowstone was actually declared America's first National Park way earlier in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park in California is the nation's second-oldest, established in 1890. It wasn't until 1917 that the first National Park was established through the National Park Service, when Denali (Formerly Mt. McKinley) National Park in Alaska was acknowledged.

 

 

3. They're not your average parks.

One of these things is definitely not like the other. Rather than holding play-spaces and swing-sets, these parks boast extraordinary histories, landscapes, views, and wildlife.

 

 
Marker for the San Andreas Fault Exhibit by the U.S. Geological Survey

Marker for the San Andreas Fault Exhibit by the U.S. Geological Survey

4. The National Park Service has siblings. 

Though it may seem totally independent, the NPS is actually a division of the Department of the Interior. It's considered an agency of the Department which operates similarly to its sister divisions: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey

 

5. All of our historic landmarks fall under control of the National Park System.

Yes, even Long Beach's beloved Hot-Cha Cafe which is just a City of Long Beach landmark is (in a way) controlled by the National Park Service. The NPS manages the National Register of Historic Places (which you may have already guessed,) but our states and cities all enter in a series of checks and balances with the Department of the Interior before they can name their regional landmarks. Each state has an "Office of Historic Preservation" which works with the Park Service and designates landmarks (like on the California Register of Historical Resources.) Meanwhile, cities ask the NPS for permission to become a "Certified Local Government," so they can have the ability to name landmarks in their own jurisdictions that may not bear importance outside of their association with the city.  

 
Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock-Barnsdall House, Hollywood

Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock-Barnsdall House, Hollywood

6. The National Register has a "Keeper" 

There is a single individual responsible for maintaining and overseeing all operations related to the National Register. The position is manned today by Stephanie Toothman, who's job title is literally, "Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places." 

 
Historic Building Services performing standard-compliant work at the Hot-Cha Cafe

Historic Building Services performing standard-compliant work at the Hot-Cha Cafe

7. They've got high standards. 

The office of the Secretary of the Interior (AKA the person responsible for representing and overseeing Historic Preservation practices nationwide) maintains a series of "Standards." These standards are used to help designate who is and isn't qualified to conduct work on and with historic places, and how to carry out that work depending on what kind of treatment the historic place needs. 

 
Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, CA, which recognizes the contributions of Cesar E. Chavez and other farm workers was declared via Presidential Proclamation in 2012

Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, CA, which recognizes the contributions of Cesar E. Chavez and other farm workers was declared via Presidential Proclamation in 2012

8. Not all parks are created equal. 

Within the National Park System there are different levels of designation that imply how important a place actually is. While "National Park" is the highest level of designation a place can have (think Yellowstone and Yosemite,) right below it is a "National Monument." National Monuments can be designated through Presidential Proclamation, and don't require any additional approval other than by the President him/herself. President Obama has been using this liberty to designate significant historic sites that may not be able to be universally supported in our current political climate, like Stonewall National Monument which honors and tells the story of America's LGBT community.

 
Image: SequoiaKingsNPS on Facebook

Image: SequoiaKingsNPS on Facebook

9. Don't even try to steal from a National Park.

Have you heard the saying "leave no trace?" This rule-of-thumb applies to littering in National Parks, and definitely rallied the park-loving community against a tagger who hit seven sites during a 2014 road trip. Surprising or not, it also applies to taking: did you know it's illegal to remove natural material from some National Parks? This child who took a pinecone from a Sequoia in California mailed it back with a note of apology, and it went viral. Learn from their mistake!

 
Students at our Youth Heritage Summit do a 'takeover' of the Department of the Interior's Snapchat account

Students at our Youth Heritage Summit do a 'takeover' of the Department of the Interior's Snapchat account

10. National Parks don't discriminate. 

For a long time, there weren't that many National Parks that represented the diversity in this country. To be honest, there still aren't - but it's getting better. By creating more National Monuments that represent minorities and promoting the "Every Kid in a Park" Campaign, President Obama has taken a stance that we need to expand opportunity to visit and connect with National Parks to all residents of this country and build a sense of pride through our landscape and depth of natural and historic places. 

Part of this practice is to increase interactions with National Parks through social media. If you pay attention, you'll see the National Park Service and Department of the Interior hyping up their assets on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat. They're (working hard to be) on it!

 

All photos used in this post are by We Are the Next unless otherwise credited.