Could this area near New York be America’s next national park?

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The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania – receives millions of visitors each year. Although the area is not a national park, some groups have been trying to change this for years.

One of the groups advocating for change is the Sierra Club. Donald Miles, vice president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club, explained in an Associated Press article that designating the area as a national park rather than a recreation area within a national park would give the area a larger budget. important that can be used for equipment. and infrastructure.

“We are seeing essentially the same number of tourists as Yellowstone, but without the corresponding budget,” Miles said.

John Kashwick, vice president of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said turning the Water Gap into a national park was a “social justice issue.”

“It’s not just landscapes,” Kashwick said in the article. “Its proximity to major urban centers like New York and Philadelphia makes the region accessible to millions of people. “

The reason for the growing popularity of the region

In 2019, 3.37 million visitors made it to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and in 2020, it received nearly 4.1 million visitors, according to the National Park Service. Meanwhile, in 2019, 4 million people visited Yellowstone and 3.8 million people visited the park in 2020.

Here’s what makes the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area so special. It includes 70,000 acres, with over 150 miles of trails and 40 miles of the Middle Delaware River. It gets its name from “Water Gap” because the Delaware River crosses a large Appalachian ridge in the region before traveling 200 miles to Delaware Bay and then emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in Wilmington, Delaware.

Also of note, the park has a number of important Native American archaeological sites, structures from a former Dutch settlement, and even historic rural villages from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also known for its many waterfalls, including Raymondskill Falls, which is Pennsylvania’s tallest waterfall, as well as Silver Thread and Dingmans Falls.

National park designation

There are two main reasons the Sierra Club worked to have the area designated as a national park.

First, there are no national parks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York.

“Recognizing the area as a national park would give the respect and importance the area deserves – and give the residents of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City their first national park,” said one. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial notes. “There are, in general, far too few national parks east of the Mississippi, certainly out of proportion to our share of natural wonders.”

Second, as has been noted, the designation of Delaware Water Gap as a national park means that funding for conservation and infrastructure would increase dramatically. Currently, the Delaware Water Gap currently receives $ 8.2 million from the National Parks Service, while Yellowstone receives $ 27.6 million, although the parks have similar attendance levels. The much-needed increase in funding could be used to meet growing infrastructure needs, including supporting roads, parking and trail conservation, the editorial notes.

Growing support

Supporters of the Delaware Water Gap designation as a national park are looking to do work to have West Virginia’s New River Gorge nominated as a national park as a model. This park was named a national park despite concerns from some local citizens that the area lacked facilities to cope with an increase in tourism.

This case is completely different. This is because millions of visitors already come to the Delaware Water Gap every year. The area already functions essentially as a national park.

Sean Strub, mayor of Milford, Pike County, said in the Associated Press article that he was not aware of any opposition to the Delaware Water Gap being designated as a national park. In addition, Milford, which is the northern gateway to Water Gap, already has a hotel, rentals and restaurants, he said.

“The Water Gap is already a deciding factor in all of our development plans here,” Strub said. “That’s why people are moving to Pike County and going there. The Water Gap can certainly handle a lot more people, but maybe not a lot more cars. “

If the national park plan is approved, the change could happen “immediately,” said John Donahue, who spent 14 years as manager of the Delaware Water Gap Park.

“This place is already functioning as a national park,” Donahue said. “We would just need new panels. “

Know before you go

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a long, narrow park that sits along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. You can find directions for touring the area here.

If you would like to visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, you can plan your visit using the advice written by the rangers who work there. You can find their advice here.

Be sure to check out all of our coverage of US National Parks, including

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