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February 21, 2011
According to Delaware's congressional delegation, led by Senators Chris Coons, Tom Carper and Representative John Carney, a longstanding and festering historical injustice is about to be remedied. Delaware citizens, long in anguish over their state's neglect by the federal government, are at long last to be the happy recipients of federal largess which will establish "sites and attraction in each of Delaware's three counties." To that end, the "Three C's" have introduced the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011.
Representative Carper "was shocked to find that Delaware was the only state not to have a national park...The legislation introduced today celebrates Delaware's rich history and beings us one step closer to making the Delaware National Park a reality. I cannot wait for the day when families all across this country and the world will plan their vacations around the Delaware National Park..."
Mr. Carper's euphoria at the prospect of a Delaware National Park is not shared by many of its more conservative citizens.
First, a state by state map indicates just how much land the federal government owns. The statistics are revelatory, and do not even include state parks, monuments, and sites. The upshot of the matter is that the US government already owns about 30% of the land in the US, including 84% of the entire state of Nevada and some 13 million acres of Alaska. The government earns a fortune from leases to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). Land is big business for the federal government.
Considering the fact one third of our nation's land mass is owned and utilized by our federal government, why would we need the federal government to establish a National Park in tiny Delaware?
Just to put things into perspective, the only state smaller than Delaware is Rhode Island, which aside from small sites such as the Touro synagogue, the Roger Williams National Memorial and the John H. Chafee Blackstone river Valley watershed shared by Massachusetts, seems wisely to have eschewed further federal encroachment via monuments, memorials and national park land grabs. Denizens of the state no doubt sense a few more federal memorials would likely consume the whole of the postage stamp sized state.
Delaware would do well to duplicate Rhode Island's resistance to having the federal government grab yet more territory. After all, there are already two preserves in Delaware as well as seventeen state parks. Delaware simply does not need more land set aside for parks.
Further, the federal government doesn't really have the monies for new parks, but the President's 2011 budget grows funds for the purchase of national parks. The plan would provide $360 million for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is tapped to make land acquisitions for the National Park System.
In view of the fact the debt ceiling is in danger of not being raised and the federal government is going broke, why is Delaware's congressional delegation pushing for a national park? Perhaps for two chief reasons: First, since the current federal budget allows acquisitions for Land and Water Conservation, Delaware's delegation is out to get a piece of that money before it is gobbled up by other states; and secondly, anything to do with land and water conservation keeps the powerful environmentalist lobby happy. But perhaps most importantly, who knows just what people other than the ordinary Delaware citizen will benefit from managing a federal windfall for a national park?
In the meantime, it is common knowledge the federal government cannot maintain the current park system, some of which have been turned into profitable marijuana farms by enterprising Mexican drug cartels. While a few may applaud such endeavors as private enterprise at the rawest level, the ensuing chaos and lack of enforcement of park regulations certainly speaks to the inability of the federal government to supervise the lands it currently possesses. Are the feds really going to care about a Delaware national park? Just where will the funds come from to maintain the park? Delaware, like the feds and most states, is already broke.
Last, who seriously believes a National Park in the tiny state would create the lemming rush of tourists Mr. Carper predicts will come en masse from the US and from distant climes and countries? It can be safely said that any park established in Delaware would not exactly be the equivalent of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, as the state's gentle topography cannot compete with the grandeur and sublimity of more visually enticing national parks. And Delaware is small. The entire land mass of the state, about 1,250,000 acres, would disappear like a stone in the Pacific were it dropped inside Alaska's behemoth Wrangell-St. Elias State Park.
Delaware doesn't need a National Park, can't afford one; and even if it had one, could not attract the tourists necessary to justify its establishment.