What’s in a Name?: National Park Service Areas in Ohio

I am sure this was a question asked many times by the Garfield children as they acted out Shakespearian plays in their parlor, but it is a question that can also be asked about the various units of the National Park Service.

In Ohio, there are 12 National Park Service sites, and while we are all a part of the same agency, there are several different types of sites, such as: National Historic Sites (like James A. Garfield, William Howard Taft, Fallen Timbers and Fort Miamis, or First Ladies), National Parks (Cuyahoga Valley), National Historical Parks (Hopewell Culture or Dayton Aviation), National Memorials (David Berger), Memorials (Perry’s Victory and International Peace), National Historic Trails (North Country or Natonal Aviation), and National Monuments (Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers).

The Arrowhead is the official insignia of the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior agency that administers all of the National Parks in Ohio and across the nation.  There are currently 401 sites in all 50 states and in several U.S. territories as well.  (NPS image)

The Arrowhead is the official insignia of the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior agency that administers all of the National Parks in Ohio and across the nation. There are currently 401 sites in all 50 states and in several U.S. territories as well. (NPS image)

You may be wondering what the big difference is if we’re all National Parks.

Let’s start with what we are, a National Historic Site. The NPS designates a site as a National Historic Site if is “not a complicated site,” meaning that it is clearly distinguishable as to what the subject matter is, and that within that site, there is a cultural or historical resource that should be preserved for future generations. Here at James A. Garfield NHS, it is clearly distinguishable that this site is that which was the home of the 20th President of the United States, and that the artifacts found here, coupled with the Front Porch Campaign of 1880, makes it perfectly clear that the NHS designation is the right fit for us.

The James and Lucretia Garfield home at James A. Garfield National Historic Site.  (NPS image)

The James and Lucretia Garfield home at James A. Garfield National Historic Site. (NPS image)

On December 28, 1980, by an act of Congress, Public Law 96-607, Title XII, Section 1201, this site was designated as a National Historic Site “…to preserve for the benefit, education, and inspiration of present and future generations certain properties associated with the life of James A. Garfield…” This meant that the National Park Service could become a part of the team that would preserve the artifacts here, as well as tell the story of President James A. Garfield.

James A. Garfield National Historic Site is one of four NPS Sites in Ohio with the National Historic Site (or NHS) designation. The others are Fallen Timbers and Fort Miamis (www.nps.gov/fati); First Ladies (www.nps.gov/fila); and William Howard Taft (www.nps.gov/wiho).  Only one site in Ohio, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers, has the National Monument designation.  A National Monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource. It is usually smaller than a national park and lacks its diversity of attractions.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is one of the newest National Parks in the entire system.  It commemorates the life of Colonel Charles Young, an African American West Point graduate, Army officer, diplomat, and civil rights leader.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is one of the newest National Parks in the entire system. It commemorates the life of Colonel Charles Young, an African American West Point graduate, Army officer, diplomat, and civil rights leader.  (Library of Congress)

So, what then, is a National Park? National Parks, in the traditional sense, are lands which are set aside for the “preservation of nationally and globally significant scenic areas and nature preserves.” When we look at Yellowstone (www.nps.gov/yell), Grand Canyon (www.nps.gov/grca), or even closer to home, Cuyahoga Valley (www.nps.gov/cuva), it is apparent that these locales are home to exactly what they seek to preserve. At Cuyahoga Valley, for example, there are primeval forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other natural wonders that are significant to the area, as well as to the nation and world. Additionally, to find natural treasures sandwiched between two metropolitan areas like this is even more special.

Cuyahoga Valley was originally designated as a National Recreation Area (a separate designation) in 1974, and received its National Park designation in 2001. It is Ohio’s only “traditional” National Park.

Brandywine Falls, located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  (NPS image)

Brandywine Falls, located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (NPS image)

In the Buckeye State, we have two NPS Site which have the designation of National Historical Park (NHP). These sites deal with broader topics, such as Dayton Aviation Heritage (www.nps.gov/daav), which have multiple venues, such as the Wright Bicycle Shop and the Huffman Prairie, as well as the Paul Laurence Dunbar house, but also hit on multiple points of historical significance. The other NHP in Ohio is Hopewell Culture (www.nps.gov/hocu), which discusses the broad topics concerning some of Ohio’s native peoples.

This brings us to the four remaining NPS sites in Ohio.

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (www.nps.gov/pevi) is a National Park located on South Bass Island in the Village of Put-in-Bay. It is a Memorial, which means it commemorates an important event or person, but does it in a two-fold manner. It first commemorates the decisive naval victory in 1813 of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie, where he defeated the British Navy. Secondly, it honors the lasting peace among the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is the only International Peace Memorial in the National Park System, and is the only U.S. National Park to fly the flags of three nations side-by-side.

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, flying the flags of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  (NPS image)

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, flying the flags of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. (NPS image)

David Berger National Memorial (www.nps.gov/dabe) in Beachwood is a National Park site which pays tribute to David Berger, an athlete and native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who was killed in the attacks at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. A National Memorial is a place of national importance which honors the sacrifice of an individual or individuals thought to be significant in our nation’s history. David Berger, although an American by birth, had Israeli citizenship, and was a member of the 1972 Israeli National Wrestling Team.

Finally, the last two NPS Sites in Ohio are part of the National Trails System. The National Aviation Heritage Area (www.nps.gov/avia) links sites that were part of the early days of aviation in and around the greater Dayton area. The North Country National Scenic Trail (www.nps.gov/noco) is a nine-state trail that takes travelers to some of the most scenic areas in the nation.

12 National Parks. 7 designations. 1 state. These are your National Parks in Ohio.

-Andrew Mizsak, Site Volunteer

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