Monday, March 25, 2013

Apple #630: New National Monuments

Maybe you saw the news articles this week: tomorrow, President Obama is going to declare 5 locations as new national monuments.

A lot of these places are vast tracts of land, and their primary interest is the natural beauty and wildlife.  So it seems like they ought to be national parks rather than national monuments.  But only Congress can designate National Parks.  The President can only designate National Monuments.

Lots of the news articles about this list the new monuments, but they don't say much about them.  So let's find out some more details.

First State National Monument - Delaware & Pennyslvania

A portion of the Woodlawn property, all of which will become the First State National Monument
(Photo by Jim Graham, from the Conservation Fund)

Roughly the area included in the newly named First State National Monument in the Brandywine Valley
(Map from Woodall's Campground Management)

  • The lands in this new national park are mainly in Delaware, whose motto is the "first state." Hence the name of the monument.
  • The park encompasses 1,100 acres called "the Woodlawn property" in the Brandywine River Valley, extending north into Pennsylvania.
  • It includes a wildlife preserve, plus trails for hiking, walking, and horseback riding. Farms that were in operation hundreds of years ago have been preserved, and some open fields are leased to local farmers.
  • This is some seriously old property, "originally acquired by William Penn from the Duke of York in 1692."
  • One of the things in this 1,100 acres is a place called New Castle Green.  This is one of those open green spaces that people used to establish in the middle of towns, as sort of a central park, where you could graze your livestock, go hang out under the trees, or take someone to court (!). It was around the green that basic village services would be located.
  • So this particular green includes some pretty old stuff, such as:
      • The Court House (1732)
      • New Castle Academy (1799) originally a private school
      • Arsenal (1809) became a public school 1852-1930, now a restaurant
      • Old Sheriff's House (relatively new, 1857)

A section of New Castle Green
(Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr)

This American Elm is the only remaining elm on the New Castle Green. They don't say how old it is, but it lived through the ravages of Dutch Elm Disease, which struck in the 1930s.
(Photo from New Castle Green)

  • New Castle was actually the capital of Delaware until 1777.
  • While Delaware was the first state in the union, it's the last to have a national monument. Congratulations, Delaware!

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument - New Mexico

Rio Grande with Ute Mountain © Adriel Heisey
(Photo by Adriel Heisey, from the Rio Grande del Norte site)

  • Located in New Mexico just south of the border with Colorado, these 240,000 acres run along the northern branch of the Rio Grande. 
  • Within these acres is the 10,093-ft Ute Mountain, which is an inactive shield volcano.
  • The Rio Grande, meanwhile, has carved a gorge into the landscape some 200 feet deep.  This gorge is seriously old -- somewhere between 1.5 and 5 million years old.
  • Peoples have lived in this area for at least 11,000 years. Among the cultures that have been identified here are Paleoindian, Anasazi, Historic Pueblo, Ute, Navajo, Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and other Plains groups.
  • This river was already designated as one of the original 8 rivers named as a Wild and Scenic River in 1968. So people have been looking after this property in a preservation sense for quite a while.
  • The Gorge has been a fairly popular spot for hiking, climbing, fishing, star-gazing, and more. Pronghorn, deer, and elk calve and forage in this area, so hunting is also popular here.
  • One part of the river called the Razorblades is considered one of the most challenging kayak runs in New Mexico. Another section called The Box, and 18-mile stretch of water between 900-foot cliffs, is a favorite among white-water rafters.
  • The Rio Grande is also an important stop for birds on the Migratory Flyway. Eagles, falcons, and hawks nest along the gorge.  Ospreys, hummingbirds, herons, avocets, and merlins pass through here. Sandhill cranes stop here in October.

San Juan Islands National Monument - Washington

San Juan Islands, popular whale-watching spot
(Photo from Clipper Vacations)

Proposed area to be included in the San Juan Islands National Monument (Full-size version here)
(Map from the San Juan Islands)

  • This monument encompasses about 1,000 acres that spread across dozens of small islands and reefs off the coast of Washington, in the Bellingham Bay.
  • The San Juan Islands are very popular destinations for tourists. As tourist activity has gone up, private developers have expressed interest in purchasing some areas, and some of these areas have also been affected by heavy tourist activity. Designating these area as a national monument will give the islands the ability to protect their resources from unwanted development or undesirable degradation.
  • Visitors can take whale-watching boat tours to sea pods of orcas, sea lions, seals, and humpback, gray, and minke whales.  
  • One resident says Turn Point is where his family had their "best-ever orca sighting" when a huge pod of orcas swam into the kelp within 10 feet of shore. There were enough of them, and they took enough time to eat, it was 45 minutes before the pod swam on out of sight.
  • The Islands are also a popular spot for kayakers and scuba divers (Jacques Cousteau said this was his second-favorite place to live).  Bird watchers can see cormorants, eagles, Trumpeter swans, Hutton's Vireos, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Rufous Hummingbirds, plus all sorts of sea birds.
  • Many species native to this area are threatened or near-threatened.  Some trees on Iceberg Point and at Point Colville are estimated to be 500 and 600 years old.
  • The Turn Point Lighthouse has been restored and preserved, as has the Patos Light.  Reads Bay Island is home to a kelp mill.  Stuart's Island has a one-room schoolhouse with 2 students.

Boating, whale-watching, and even just sunset-watching are popular activities in the San Juan Islands
(Photo from Vacation Doorways)

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument - Ohio

Charles Young, as a captain in the 9th Cavalry
(Photo from the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce, Ohio

Colonel Charles Young, in uniform
(Photo pinned and re-pinned so many times, I don't know the original source)

  • Col. Charles Young, born to former slaves, was the third African American to graduate from West Point, and the first to be promoted to colonel. 
  • He led African American Army troops on a variety of assignments in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Nebraska, Utah, San Francisco.  He and his troops also served as rangers in Sequoia National Park in California. 
  • Since African-American troops were primarily sent to serve in the Plains and the West, they were often called "Buffalo Soldiers."
  • He also served internationally, in the Philippines, Haiti, Liberia, and Mexico.  
  • After serving with distinction in the US Army, he became a professor of military science, French, and mathematics at Wilberforce University in Ohio.  
  • He also directed the college band and composed and played music for the piano, violin, and guitar.
  • He and W.E.B. DuBois were co-faculty members and close friends.
  • His home in Wilberforce was maintained by his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, and they have donated the site to be named as a monument in his honor.

Charles Young pictured in front of his home in Wilberforce, Ohio

Harriet Tubman and Underground Railroad National Monument - Maryland & New York

Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad
(Photo from the Library of Congress, from AFRO)

  • Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and returned to the south to lead more than 70 slaves north to freedom through the network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
  • This monument commemorating her life has yet to be built. The Conservation Fund, based in Arlington, MD, donated lands surrounding her birthplace in Dorchester County, MD to the National Park Service to be used for this purpose.
  • The monument, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death in March 2013, is to commemorate her early life and her work on the Underground Railroad.
  • The park where the monument will be built includes Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by slaves and free laborers between 1810 and the 1830s and where Tubman learned important outdoor skills when she worked in the nearby timbering operations with her father.
  • Also included will be the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free African American who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with her family and others in her work.
  • The monument is expected to be complete in 2015.
  • Plans also call for a second monument to be built in Auburn, NY, where she settled in her later years and became active in women's rights and in support of elderly former slaves.

Stewart's Canal in Dorchester County will be part of the lands that will house the Harriet Tubman National Monument. This canal was dug by hand by slaves and laborers.
(Photo from America's Byways)

Nearby Blackwater Wildlife Refuge is a favorite spot for bird-watchers.
(Photo by David Trozzo, from the Washingtonian)

These all seem to me to be pretty good places to preserve and commemorate.  I'm glad they'll be a lasting part of our country's landscape.

John M. Broder, Obama to Name New National Monuments, The New York Times, March 22, 2013

Russell McLendon, Mother Nature Network, U.S. to Create 5 new national monuments, March 22, 2013
The Conservation Fund, The Conservation Fund Applauds President Obama For His Intent To Establish First National Monument In Delaware and Delaware's "First State National Monument"
Woodlawn Trustees, Preserving Parkland for Public Enjoyment
Rio Grande del Norte
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, BLM Citizens' Wilderness Inventory - Ute Mountain Unit Summary
Taos wilderness group brings attention to Ute Mountain, The Taos News, June 14, 2012
Proposed San Juan Islands National Monument, BLM Lands in the San Juans
San Juan Islands Official Travel Guide, Whales & Wildlife
Brian J. Cantwell, National Monument will protect Cattle Point, Turn Point, other San Juan Islands treasures, The Seattle Times, March 22, 2013
Wilberforce’s Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers to become national monument, Dayton Daily News, March 21, 2013

1 comment:

  1. I used to live near the Brandywine Valley, so I'm glad to see that getting some due for its historic value and natural history.


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