Monthly Archives: May 2015

Thomas Edison NHP, New Jersey

Before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and endless stories about people inventing stuff in their garages, there was Edison. Anyone who loves innovation, invention and great tales of both, should spend a day or two time-traveling at Edison’s laboratory and nearby Glenmont estate (where there is a stunning greenhouse). In addition to multiple floors of early phonographs, and cinematography and manufacturing innovations, there’s Edison’s library—complete with the cot where he used to take his afternoon naps! Fascinating stuff.

Learn more about Thomas Edison National Historic Park.

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The Changing Everglades

The New Yorker recently posted a slideshow of the Everglades, an engrossing and unusual glimpse of the place from circa 1890 to the present day. The photos are from the “Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades” exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida (on view until July 12).

The piece picks up on the importance of Daniel Beard to the history of the park as we know it today. Beard had been a field biologist with the NPS since the 1930s and became the park’s first superintendent in 1947. (Fun fact: he was also one of the founders of the Boys Scouts of America.) By that time Beard had been already been in the Everglades for a decade, readying the park for public access.

Before it was a national park, some people saw the Everglades as a swamp which needed to be drained for farms and homes and cleared of hostile bugs, plants and animals while others saw it as an unparalleled oasis better left untouched. Beard was one of those who adamantly supported the Everglades as a “wilderness” park and set out to manage it with as little human impact as possible.

Beard was quite a character–dedicated, smart and personable. While he was watching over the Everglades in the 1940s and 1950s he rejected posting a “No Fishing” sign at Royal Palm. He understood as his fellow NPS ecologist Lowell Sumner had said, “Ever since wildlife management became a profession it has been said that a wildlife management biologist’s job consists primarily of managing not wildlife but people.” Still today, at the start of the Anhinga Trail, is a sign with the verbiage Beard chose to use instead: “Fishing Reserved for the Birds.”

Read more about Beard and the history and present of the Everglades in Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Learn more about the Everglades National Park.

Explore your parks and the National Park Service.

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© Heather Hansen

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

NPS maintenance backlog now $11.5 billion

The National Park Service this week released its fiscal year 2014 deferred maintenance statistics for national parks. The $11.49 billion nationwide total was up from the $11.3 billion reported at the end of FY2013.

Deferred maintenance is necessary work on infrastructure such as roads and bridges, visitor centers, trails, and campgrounds that has been put off for more than a year. Aging facilities, increasing use of park facilities and scarce resources contribute to the growing backlog.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said the bureau’s FY2016 budget request before Congress includes a major effort to reduce the maintenance backlog for the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016.


Image of avalanche road damage at Glacier National Park courtesy of the NPS.

The president, climate change and the Everglades

We’ve all seen photographs of polar bears trying to leap from one ice floe to another in the dissolving Arctic, and time-lapse images of glaciers retreating up valleys toward oblivion. They’ve become symbols of a world warming too quickly for either physical or mental adaptation. This Earth Day a new poster child for climate change entered the mainstream when the president spoke there–the Everglades.

With steel-grey clouds overhead, harbingers of an advancing storm, President Obama spoke about what threatens the largest subtropical wilderness in the US and why it matters. “[H]ere in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate.  As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward. And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem,” he said. “[P]art of the reason we’re here is because climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida. And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”

Like most national parks the Everglades contributes significantly to local economies making their cumulative, national impact a big one. The president announced that “…every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 for the economy.” He continued, “In 2014, almost 300 million visitors to our national parks spent almost $16 billion and supported 277,000 jobs.  So protecting our parks is a smart thing to do for our economy.”

Climate change is an issue that effects all categories of national parks–natural, cultural and historical–and responding to it has been called “the greatest challenge facing the National Park Service today” by NPS Director Jon Jarvis. The agency focuses on strengthening the  resilience of parklands and their valuable resources and on adapting to change that is happening too quickly to thwart.

Learn more about climate change and the NPS.

Explore your parks.

Support your parks and the National Park Service.

 Photo courtesy NPS. 

© Heather Hansen