Why re-designating the Delaware National Recreation Area as a national park is a bad idea

| 31 Aug 2022 | 08:02

To the editor:

There is a proposal to create a new National Park only 70 miles from New York City. Sounds fantastic right? So, why so much opposition? Well, the proposal to turn the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area into the Delaware River National Park and Lenape Preserve turns out to be a mind-boggling debacle of negatives.

Proponents claim there would be increased environmental protections, but the 70,000 acres of land in question is already a federally protected National Recreation Area owned and managed by the National Park Service. In fact there is not a single additional protection proponents point to that is needed or listed to be implemented.

Meanwhile proponents point out that as many as 1 million new visitors would be expected in the first year of the change. Environmental groups like the Delaware Riverkeeper Network point out that these new visitors and the infrastructure upgrades required to support them would have a significant negative environmental impact on water quality, sensitive riparian habitat, and the surrounding ecosystems.

Next, proponents claim that the change would lead to increased funding for the currently under-funded Recreation Area, but when pressed do admit that whether the land is designated as a Recreation Area, or a National Park has zero effect on the funding the area receives from Congress and the Department of Interior.

Proponents also have stated that creating a new National Park is a diversity, equity, and inclusion issue despite the reality that National Park status would risk limiting recreational activities and limit access to the remaining recreational activities through the requirement of entrances fees, permits, and the like—the Recreation Area is currently free to enter, and most activities are completely free to enjoy with the limited exception of specific use fees at life-guarded beaches and some boat launches. Low-income families and families currently traveling from more distant urban areas to utilize the free Recreation Area risk being excluded from the new National Park.

Finally, proponents continue to claim that renaming part of the area as the Lenape preserve honors the first indigenous inhabitants of the area; however, proponents have only collaborated with the federally-recognized Lenape tribes living in Oklahoma and have blatantly ignored the local Lenape clans still living in the New York / New Jersey / and Pennsylvania area—highlighting the injustices that have denied the local Lenape people the federal recognition and sovereignty they deserve.

All of this has left local residents and environmental groups wondering why the Sierra Club—a self-described conservation group—is the main proponent behind such a debacle.

For more on this you can contact myself, or others at the Delaware Water Gap Defense Fund, or visit www.nonationalpark.org.


J. Aaron Stark

Branchville, NJ