1. Definition and Comparison: National and State Parks
2. The National Park History
2.1 America's Best Idea
2.2 The Idea around the World
3. Parks around the World
3.1 USA - Yellowstone National Park
3.2 Germany - National Park Bayerischer Wald
3.3 Great Britain - Lake District National Park
4. Conclusion and Future Prospects
According to the US government agency, the percentage of visitors of National Parks keeps rising continuously every year, for example in 2009, there was a total amount of 285 million persons in the US parks, an increase of about 3,9 percent in comparison to the year 2008.1 What are the reasons for tourists travelling sometimes hundreds of miles just to visit one of those places? John Muir, a naturalist and pioneer spokesman for the National Parks in 1898 already used the following words:
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.“ 2
Even nowadays, or better to say especially nowadays a rising stress rate among people can be noticed3, and as a result of this development, more and more people are seeking for little paradises - the National and State Parks - to enjoy a little time out in the unspoilt and untouched wilderness during their free time or holidays. An amount of uncountable National Parks extends all over the world, the USA itself contains 58 official National Parks at the moment.4 Millions of humans enjoy this priceless legacy every year, but few stop to think about the source of this bounty.
What is the background of these parks, why and when were they founded?
Which expections can be fulfilled by National Parks?
In the following, these questions will be answered while giving you - the reader of this research paper - a new point of view on nature and especially evolving and reminding you of the breathtaking scenery of National Parks in the USA and worldwide.
First of all, it is to be clarified what a National Park or State Park actually is and in which ways they differ.
National and State Parks serve similar purposes, they preserve a certain area of landscape. The differences between these two kinds of parks are only nuances, but they may lead to confusion among the visitors. Basically, National Parks denote areas which have some kind of national interest, as the name says, for example the Grand Canyon National Park.
In contrast to National Parks, State Parks highlight areas of statewide interest such as Fall Heritage State Park in Massachusetts. Many State Parks charge an entrance fee - as National Parks also often do - and offer annual park passes, for people intending to visit a special park regularly. Such passes vary from stickers, that can be placed on a vehicle, up to cards, which are shown to staff upon entering the park. State Parks are usually under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources or conservation for the particular state you would like to visit.
“ (...) [T]he Department of Interior has basic responsibility for water, fish, wildlife, mineral, land, park, and recreational resources. Indian and Territorial affairs are other major concerns of America's Department of Natural Resources. The Department works to assure the wisest choice in managing all our resources so each will make its full contribution to a better United States - now and in future.“ 5
Most national parks are administered Emblem of the National Park Service, stands at the entrance of by the National Park Service.6 each national park Jean-Paul Harroy gave a definition of what a park should be, that was accepted by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in its General Assembly in New Dheli in the year 1969:7
“A national park is or should be: (1) a relatively large area; (2) where one or several ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation; (3) where plant and animal species, geomorphological sites, and habitats are of special scientific, educational, and recreational interest or which contains a natural landscape of great beauty; (4) where the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate as soon as possible exploitation or occupation in the whole area and to enforce effectively the respect of ecological, geomorphological, or esthetic features which have led to its establishment; and (5) where visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educational, cultural, and recreational purposes.“ 8
Furthermore, governments are requested to exclude from the above definition: areas that are scientific reserves which can only be entered by a special permission; nor a natural reserve, that is managed by a private institution without competent authority of the state; nor an inhabited and exploited area where landscape planning and measures are taken. At least a minimum size, adequate staffing and a certain budget is required for maintenance and protection of a park.9
Arranged in 1933 during the London Convention and the 1940 Washington Convention, hunting or capturing of flora and fauna is strictly forbidden.
Neither Germany's nor Great Britain's National Parks fit these criteria as they are being used for a variety of purposes including settlements and agriculture.10 To sum it up, most of the National Parks do not only serve for the protection of flora and fauna, but also for the outdoor leisure of people. Furthermore such an experience of nature can contribute to the personal attitude towards nature conservation in a positive way. Therefore it is an ambitious task for the National Park Service to balance on the one hand the preservation of nature's goods and on the other hand the public accessibility to such goods.
2. The National Park History
The idea of preserving chosen sceneries goes back to the early 19th century when the American painter George Catlin in 1832, claimed this movement.11 While travelling through the wilderness, painting and drwaing portraits, landscapes and also scenes from daily Indian life, he worried about the preservation of all this beauty that surrounded him, as well as the culture of the Native Americans.12
His idea was to create special areas, set aside from normal development, where the natural grandeur as well as the lands of the Native American could be preserved.
Although in the 1830's no move was taken by the federal government in this sort of direction, the idea of creating grand parks to preserve the natural beauty of the country slowly began to gain acceptance. In 1864, first steps towards creating a national park were set in motion by Congress and President Abraham Lincoln.
It was for the first time ever, when in 1864 under President Abraham Lincoln, an area of Yosemite Valley finally was set aside for the pleasure of all humans. This was the political spark which initiated the founding of the first National Park at the Yellowstone River in the year 1872 - the Yellowstone National Park. This was the year of Catlin's death, having lived with the dream to see first steps towards a National Park.
John Muir accomplished the enlargement of further reservations in California during the year 1890. He was the founder of the Sierra Club, which was lead by him for 22 years and that is nowadays one of the most influental nature conservation association.
Thirteen years later in 1903, John Muir said to US president Theodore Roosevelt, who was talking about hunting as a freetime activity, he would never understand these issues, if he couldn't get over this meaningless killing.13 The president, actually a friend of nature, had to admit that Muir was right and agreed to camp outside in the wilderness of Yosemite for four days. The photograph depicts President Thedore Roosevelt and John Muir standing on Glacier Point in Yosemite. As a result of this meeting, Roosevelt returned to Washington determined to expand the protection of nation's scenic, historic and natural heritage.14
During his legislative period, among other things, three National Parks were founded which extend over a several million acres.
That is the reason for Muir being described as father of the American National Park System. All National Parks were founded in the stunning scenery of the West until 1919, as the first National Park, the Acadia National Park, was established in the East of the USA.
About 1200 land owners were forced to give up their rural farms located in the park area, mostly because of the global economic crisis. In addition some wealthy citizens donated countryside for public reservations and for maintenance of the Wild America. Far away from protecting all kinds of animals in the parks was the National Park Service (NPS), founded in 1916 under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior, prosecuting the extinction of unpopular carnivores such as wolves, pumas and coyotes with the help of fire arms. Insects were killed by an insecticide called DDT, and natural forest fires were stopped. Streets and hotels were built, just to satisfy the demands of a rising amount of visitors, because relaxation of people was sadly more important than the recovery of nature. John R. White described the situation at this time: “There is a natural and steady pressure to place amusement and entertainment above other requirements. In many national parks the interests of local visitors conflict with those of national visitors and with the preservation of the park for the future.“ 15
2 Krell D.: National Parks of the West, California: Lane Publishing Co. 1988, p.10
5 Linn R. M.: Research in the Parks, Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, p. iv
7 Sky Worell G.: Faszinierendes Amerika Alle National-Parks der USA, Bindlach: Gondrom Verlag 1994, p. 29
8 Dasmann R. F.: Research in the Parks, Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, p. 2
9 Ibid., p. 2
10 Ibid., p. 3
14 Krell D.: National Parks of the West, California: Lane Publishing Co. 1988, p.12
15 White J.R.: America's National Park System the critical Documents, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 1994, p.143