Why Are There Zero National Parks In New York State?
Did you know that New York has zero National Parks? Sure, we have National Monuments, National Memorials, National Recreation Area, National Historic Park, National Historic Sites, National Scenic Trails, and a Scenic and Recreational River - all managed by the National Park Service, but not one true National Park.
With all the natural beauty and history that New York has to offer, it’s odd to think we’ve never had any land be preserved under the unique distinction and honor. It’s odder when you think our nation’s most fervent naturalist President was so closely tied to New York. So why doesn’t New York have a National Park?
What Does It Take To Become A National Park?
According to the National Park Service, to be a National Park an area must:
- Possess national significant natural, cultural, or recreational resources
- Be a suitable and feasible addition to the National Park System
- Require direct NPS management instead of protection by some other government agency or by the private sector
If it meets the requirements, it must finally be submitted to and voted on by Congress to become a National Park. Historically, the man to do it should have been Teddy Roosevelt.
Since Roosevelt was a New York native and former Governor, you’d think that “The Conservationist President” would have protected lots of our land. You’d also be mistaken. As President, Roosevelt started 150 National Forests, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 5 National Parks, 4 National Game Preserves – none of which were in his home state. We may never know why the Empire State went overlooked.
So What Would Be New York’s National Park?
The most obvious choice feels like the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Park is a staggering six million acres - more land than Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.
Remember the criteria to become a National Park. Of all the land in the Adirondack Park, only 2.6 million acres are owned by New York State. With more than half of the land privately owned (105 towns and villages exist in the Park), it could likely never live up to rule #3 under the National Park Service.
It may almost be for the best for New Yorkers that the land stays outside the NPS; most National Parks are pay-to-enter. But for those hoping to put a National Park on New York’s map, new National Parks are regularly added, with West Virginia’s New River Gorge becoming America’s 63rd during 2020. Maybe a portion of the Adirondacks or another one of our state’s beautiful landmarks will be added to the list one day.