Disestablished National Parks

I continue to mine many of the suggestions offered by 12MC reader "Scott" who provided me with a boatload of National Park trivia last summer. With that, I’m going pursue an angle that isn’t particularly well know, or at least unknown to me. One often thinks of everything associated with National Parks as perpetual. After all, their goals include conservation and preservation. Once a park, always a park, one would conclude if understanding the conventional wisdom. That’s not always true, however.

It sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps mildly shocking, but some properties in the NPS inventory have been disestablished. Twenty three sites have been transferred away from NPS administration for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes properties were disestablished because the original acquisition never made much sense to begin with, such as with a concert hall.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC is world-renowned for theater, ballet, orchestral performances and arts eduction. It’s a great home for the National Symphony Orchestra but does it have the qualities of a great national park? No, and that’s why it was moved to a public-private partnership under the direction of the Kennedy Center trustees in 1994.

Father Millet Cross National Monument

SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

The Father Millet Cross National Monument has to be one of the more unusual former NPS properties. It’s located on the grounds of Old Fort Niagara. The former monument commemorates a rescue mission at the original French fort in 1688. Father Millet was part of the rescue party that reached the sick and starving soldiers at the garrison. He erected a wooden cross at the site and the later National Monument served to commemorate the original commemoration, if that makes sense. It is reputed to have been the smallest national monument ever established at a mere 0.0074 acres or 320 square feet.

The National Monument was eventually disestablished and transferred to the state of New York to include within surrounding Fort Niagara park. The Father Millet Cross is but a mere speck on that property. It didn’t meet the definition of what should be considered a National Monument.

Sullys Hill National Park

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Most of the disestablished properties were National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, and the like. It’s rare for a full-blown National Park to lose that status, and even more unusual for one to be removed from the NPS roster altogether. Sullys Hill National Park in North Dakota certainly doesn’t have the name recognition of Yellowstone or Yosemite, and indeed that’s one of the reasons it no longer exits.

President Theodore Roosevelt himself established the park in 1904 which is pretty significant considering his contributions to the conservation movement and his role in the history of the system of national parks in the United States. Nonetheless, Sullys Hill was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service about thirty years later and demoted to a game reserve.

Castle Pinckney National Monument

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Chances are you’ve heard of Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina (my visit) if you have even a basic understanding of U.S. History. It brings to mind an important time and place in the United States at the dawn of the Civil War. How about Castle Pinckney? Well, probably not so much. That was the primary issue with Castle Pinckney National Monument. It was part of the defenses of Charleston Harbor — just like Ft. Sumter — but to a considerably lesser extent.

Anyone who’s visited Charleston and gazed upon the harbor has likely seen Castle Pinckney without realizing it. The excursion boat that took me to Ft. Sumter sailed directly past it and the guides actually pointed it out. Castle Pinckney seemed to be seriously eroded with vegetation growing through it, sitting on a shoal that’s gradually being absorbed into the harbor. Granted, it doesn’t have the name recognition of other Charleston sites however it probably doesn’t deserve this fate either. It’s gone from National Monument to neglected ruin.

2 Replies to “Disestablished National Parks”

  1. That NPS link, which is a great resource, covers those areas that were de-parked from 1930-1994. Since ’94, there have been others. The first one that comes to mind is Oklahoma City National Memorial, which was a Park from October 9, 1997 until January 23, 2004. The reason I bring that one up is because it gets even more confusing. It used to be one of the 397 (it’s 397 now that they added Fort Monroe and Paterson Great Falls, but it was lower back when OK City was a park) official national park units. However, it no longer is, but the NPS still has a presence there, a website for it (http://www.nps.gov/okci/index.htm), and it is still in the Red Book (another great resource: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/nps/index2009_11.pdf) as an “affliated area”. It’s run by a private foundation (http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/).

  2. I still dont understand why there is no recognition for the area that was the start of the French-Indian War: Ft LeBoeuf, in Waterford, PA. Granted, there’s statue of Washington (in British Virginia uniform), and a few road markers, but overall, not that big of a deal. The PA Historical and Museum Commission closed the Ft Leboeuf Museum down a few years ago.

    I guess its because no one wants to be reminded Washington used to work for the British, or it was something that happened prior to the Revolutionary War, but its a part of the history that shaped our country.

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