The new, new parks
The White House announced this week the president’s designation of three new national monuments. Among them are an area significant for its role in labor history; a nearly forgotten internment camp; and a critical watershed in Colorado where the biodiversity includes golden eagles and bighorn sheep.
Pullman National Monument (Illinois)—This model factory town on Chicago’s South Side (complete with areas for whole families to work, live, shop, play and worship) rose in the 1880s as the Pullman Palace Car Company employed thousands in the building and running of its luxury railroad cars.
In addition to vastly improving the living and working conditions which were generally horrific in that era, Pullman hired former slaves as the first maids, porters and waiters. While inequality was still problematic the first African American middle class rose during this time and contributed significantly to the civil rights movement which followed.
The site again made history following the depression of 1893, with the Pullman strike of 1894, when workers protested the fact that their cost of living did not drop along with their wages. Federal troops put a violent end to the strike which led ultimately to the legislation creating Labor Day.
There’s much more to the Pullman story which visitors will be able to see unfold, in person, at the new monument. It’s an important site that touches on several fascinating periods in American history.
Honouliuli National Monument (Hawaii)—As the largest confinement camp used during World War II for Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants and prisoners of war, it’s hard to believe this site in not already in the national park system. This camp in a steep canyon near Pearl Harbor on Oahu has a lot of stories to tell, of fear and loss and acts that should never be repeated.
Browns Canyon National Monument (Colorado)—For more than a decade conservationists have been agitating for federal protection for this 22,000-acre area in central Colorado. It is a craggy, rambling stretch of the upper Arkansas River Valley which also happens to be one of the most popular whitewater runs in the country.
With the exception of Browns Canyon, which will be jointly managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the new parks will be run by the NPS.
© Heather Hansen