On Fridays, we love talking about getting outside whenever possible! We frequently talk about natural beauty all around us and how everyone lives near state or national parks. There are 423 national parks you can visit! And, while it’s true that the country is filled with natural beauty, it turns out that there isn’t a national park in every state.
While every state has state parks, 20 don’t have national parks! Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin are bereft of a national park of their own. You can drive to one, but there might not be one in your state.
It came as a blow to one member of our team to learn that New Jersey is on the list of states without a national park. While Neuliven Health is located in San Diego, our team members come from all over the place; San Diego is a beautiful place to live and work! One of our team members grew up in New Jersey and just couldn’t believe it when she heard that her state, a beautiful place to grow up and live, didn’t have a national park. People might make fun of New Jersey, but it’s called The Garden State for a reason!
She started listing off favorite hiking spots and campgrounds. How are the Pine Barrens, the Pinelands, Bass River, Monmouth Battlefield, the Great Swamp, Jockey Hollow and Washington Crossing not national parks? Looking them up, she found that they were all state parks, state forests and national historical parks but not official national parks. Honestly, this drives home a point we’ve frequently said when talking about how packed the national parks have recently been: head to the state parks near you! State parks are beautiful and worth your time! The big difference between state and national parks is who manages them. National parks are federally funded; state parks are paid for by the states they are in. They’re equally gorgeous!
The list of states without a national park may soon change. A proposal could soon give Pennsylvania and New Jersey their first national park. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, spanning both states, sees more than 4.5 million visitors every year. It has 70,000 acres of forest, mountains, waterfalls and, of course, the river. It’s home to the Raymondskill Falls, the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania, and it’s absolutely stunning.
After all our talk about how there is no difference between a state park and a national park, why does it matter that the Delaware Water Gap is classified as a national recreational area? It’s not all in a name; it’s all in a budget.
“We basically see the same amount of tourists as Yellowstone but without the commensurate budget,” said Donald Miles, vice chair of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club.
Some people worry that naming it a national park will make even more people come. Others believe that ship has sailed, and it would be good to increase the budget for updated infrastructure. Milford, PA, for instance, is the northern entrance to the Water Gap and already has restaurants and a hotel but could use updated roads.
“The Water Gap is already a deciding factor in all our development plans here,” said Sean Strub, mayor of Milford, Pike County. “It’s why people move to Pike County and why they visit. The Water Gap can definitely handle a lot more people, but maybe not a lot more cars.”
With 4.5 million visitors annually, some argue that it’s all semantics. A budget change would be excellent for upkeep, but it wouldn’t change the day-to-day life of the park. Retired park superintendent John Donahue said, “You never hear people say, ‘I’m going to go see all the national recreation areas in America.’ This place, basically, already is a national park… This place already functions that way. We’d basically just need some new signs.”
For the sake of their budget, and our team member who wants it on behalf of her state, we hope it gets approved.