Four Hundred and Eight Strong

Imagine stepping back in time to an elegant country estate, and standing on a front porch where a presidential candidate once spoke to thousands of people. Envision a quiet island corridor between Put-in-Bay and the Ohio coast, the same place where the naval Battle of Lake Erie was waged over 200 years ago. Picture yourself walking a peaceful riverside trail, where commerce and community formerly thrived upon the Ohio and Erie Canal.

These are just a few of the scenes preserved and protected by the National Park Service (NPS), and the best part is they are all right here in Ohio. And for park rangers, these scenes are just another day at the office!

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the federal government, operating within the Department of the Interior. The parks that make up the system are further divided into 7 regions: Alaska, Intermountain, Midwest, National Capital, Northeast, Pacific West, and Southeast. Ohio falls within the Midwest Region, which includes parks in or near urban areas like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, varied landscapes such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and historic locations like our own James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield National Historic Site (or JAGA, as it is affectionately abbreviated) is one of 408 National Park Service units across the United States, plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Every state has at least one National Park unit (Delaware was the last state to join the list, with the addition of First State National Historical Park, which includes the First State National Monument, in March 2013).

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS!  Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880.  (NPS photo)

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS! Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880. (NPS photo)

Work within the NPS is generally divided among six main divisions responsible for various aspects of park management. Each division typically includes a chief as well as other management staff who oversee the operations. The division names and functions may vary slightly from one site to another, but the general structure and responsibilities are similar:

Superintendent’s Office

A superintendent and his or her staff oversee all park divisions and activities. This office may also work and communicate with surrounding communities and organizations.

Administrative

The administrative staff manages many functions, including human resources and payroll, budget planning, information technology, property management and acquisition, and purchasing and contracting.

Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services

IEVS rangers are the staff with whom visitors are most likely to interact on a visit. Interpretive rangers can be found working in visitor centers, leading tours and guided hikes, presenting educational programs to students, supervising volunteers, and organizing special events. Interpretive rangers are also busy behind the scenes, planning programs, creating brochures and park literature, and keeping the park’s website and social media accounts current.

Maintenance

Maintenance employees are responsible for upkeep of the park and its facilities, whether that is cleaning and servicing the buildings and grounds used by the public, constructing and maintaining trails, or keeping areas cleared of snow in the winter months. Some maintenance staff members, like automotive technicians, work on specialized projects depending on the needs of the site.

Visitor and Resource Protection

Visitor and resource protection Rangers are the law enforcement division of a park. These rangers are trained in first aid and incident response, so that in an emergency, they can quickly reach a victim or situation and assist. They also maintain internal communications, such as radio traffic, weather-related news, and employee contact information, and monitor park security systems.

Resource and Visitor Protection park rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers.  They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities.  (NPS photo)

Resource and Visitor Protection Park Rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers. They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities. (NPS photo)

Resource Management

Each park within NPS has a unique set of resources, which could include historical buildings or structures, original artifacts or documents, and natural features. Resource management could involve ecosystem management, such as invasive species or water quality monitoring, or protection of cultural and historical resources, like curating a museum collection or archaeological artifacts.

Although tasks and projects are divided amongst divisions, cooperation between them is essential in order for parks to function well. Beyond these park-level divisions, there are also regional offices for each of the seven regions. These regional offices report to the Washington, D.C. offices, the highest level in the park’s organization. Regional offices may handle affairs that cannot be handled internally at the park level, while the Washington offices handle matters at the nationwide level.

Some visitors are also curious about how one comes to work for the National Park Service in the first place. While working in or visiting a park, you might encounter people with all sorts of educational backgrounds: natural resource management, biology, fisheries and wildlife, history, social science/anthropology, park and recreation management, law enforcement, museum studies, business administration, public administration, or any number of other degrees. Many park employees begin their careers as seasonal staff or interns. Still others have worked in a variety of other industries or environments, such as experience as an educator, military veteran, outdoor recreation instructor, or park volunteer, before joining the staff.

NPS in Ohio
Ohio is home to eight National Park Service units:

  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Wilberforce)
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Cleveland-Akron)
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (Dayton)
  • First Ladies National Historic Site (Canton)
  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (Chillicothe)
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Mentor)
  • Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Put-in-Bay)
  • William Howard Taft National Historic Site (Cincinnati)

Not included on this list are some of the other NPS designations that are affiliated with the National Park Service (for example, the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs through Ohio as well as six other states).

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents!  Two of them--James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft--have National Historic Sites in the state.  This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati.  (NPS photo)

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents! Two of them–James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft–have National Historic Sites in the state. This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati. (NPS photo)

Types of NPS Units

Keeping track of all the different designations can be a little confusing, but not to worry—just focus on learning something, having fun, and enjoying your visit! It is helpful, though, to know a little bit about the different types of parks, so you can know some of what to expect when you take your next visit (examples of each designation are in parentheses):

National Park (Acadia)

With 59 units, National Parks are some of the most recognizable and well-known units of NPS. These are generally large, natural places having a wide variety of attributes, often including significant historic or cultural elements. Hunting, mining, and consumptive activities (like collecting fossils or plants) are not authorized within units of this variety.

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect!  (NPS photo)

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect! (NPS photo)

National Monument (Fort Sumter)

A National Monument could be something constructed (like a statue or fort) or something natural (such as a geologic feature). Devils Tower in Wyoming was the first national monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Antiquities Act earlier that year authorized the president to declare landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments.

National Preserve (Big Cypress)

National preserves are similar to national parks, but allow a wider range of activities within their borders, such as hunting, trapping, and oil extraction. Many existing national preserves, without sport hunting, would qualify for national park designation.

National Historic Site (Clara Barton)

Usually, a national historic site contains a single, historical feature that was directly associated with its subject. Beginning with the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a number of historic sites were established by Secretaries of the Interior, but most have been authorized by Congress.

National Historical Park (Cane River Creole)

Similar to a national historic site, historical parks may center on a particular building or place, but extend into the surrounding area and the associated structures and places.

National Memorial (Mount Rushmore)

A national memorial is commemorative of a historic person or episode, but is specific in that it does not necessarily occupy a site historically or geographically connected with the subject.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation's best-known and most-visited national memorials.  (NPS photo)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation’s best-known and most-visited national memorials. (NPS photo)

National Battlefield (Antietam)

This umbrella title includes national battlefield, national battlefield park, national battlefield site, and national military park.

National Cemetery (Poplar Grove, part of Petersburg National Battlefield)

There are 14 national cemeteries in the National Park System, all of which are administered in conjunction with an associated park unit and are not accounted for separately.

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.  (NPS photo)

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. (NPS photo)

National Recreation Area (Santa Monica Mountains)

Recreation areas are generally found on a large body of water (it could be an unnatural lake, such as Lake Mead) that provides opportunities for aquatic activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing, and/or they are located near a highly urban area. Like national parks, they often combine historical, cultural, and recreational resources.

National Seashores (Cape Cod), Lakeshores (Apostle Islands), and Rivers (Mississippi)

Ten national seashores have been established on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, some developed and some relatively primitive. Hunting is allowed at many of these sites. National lakeshores, all located on the Great Lakes, are very similar to national seashores in terms of use.

National rivers include subcategories, like national river and recreation area, national scenic river, and wild river, to name a few. The first, Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri, was authorized in 1964 and others were established following passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

National Parkway (Blue Ridge)

Parkway refers to a roadway and the adjacent parkland. Parkways are intended for scenic motoring along a protected corridor and often connect cultural sites.

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th anniversary back in 2010.  We love the retro look of this poster!  (www.rangerdoug.com)

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th anniversary back in 2010. We love the retro look of this poster! (www.rangerdoug.com)

National Trail (Ice Age National Scenic Trail)

National scenic trails and national historic trails are the titles given to these linear parklands (over 3,600 miles) authorized under the National Trails System Act of 1968. National trails often cross the boundaries of several states within a wider region, and may intersect other park sites.

Other Designations

Some units of the National Park System have unique designations, like the President’s Park (White House), Prince William Forest Park, and City of Rocks National Reserve. Some parks, like Denali in Alaska, combine two designations (National Park and Preserve), while others, like Cuyahoga Valley, were authorized to change their official designation at some point (from National Recreation Area to National Park).

Finally, NPS also helps to manage, through providing technical and financial support, other historically significant, affiliated sites that may or may not fit within the official count of NPS units:

National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant, historic places designated as such by the Secretary of the Interior. To date, there are over 2,500 NHLs across the United States. The National Park Service helps to guide this process and assists with existing sites. The James A. Garfield home is both a National Historic Landmark as well as a National Park Service site.

National Register of Historic Places is the most inclusive category. Sites on this list number over 85,000. The National Park Service administers the NRHP, which includes historic districts as well as individual sites such as parks, town halls, hotels, residences, schools, churches, post offices, theatres, bridges, hospitals, farms, submarines, mills, research facilities, industrial plants, armories, and more. These sites can be federally, privately, or locally owned and operated. All National Historic Sites and National Historical Parks are on this register.

Remember to keep an eye out for the iconic arrowhead logo–you’ll know that you’ve found a National Park!

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service.  Look for it on your travels around the country!  There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy!  (NPS)

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service. Look for it on your travels around the country! There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy! (NPS)

-Katelin McArdle, Park Ranger

Mourning President Garfield

“The waves of emotion that swept over the country, moreover, were fed not only by the fact that America’s president had been attacked…but that that president had been Garfield.”
-Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
President James A. Garfield was only in office just four short months before Charles Guiteau’s attempted assassination. While his time as President was brief, his effect on the nation was not. Out of the many things that stand out about James A. Garfield, his effect on the nation is one that must not be over looked. His death has been compared that of John F. Kennedy. Both were bright, articulate, hopeful presidents who had set out to unite America.
On July 2, 1881, President Garfield became the second president to be shot. Walking through Washington, D.C.’s Baltimore & Potomac train station, heading toward his New England-bound train, President Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau, a man who until recently had hoped to work for the President.

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881.  Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked.  Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield.  (

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881. Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked. Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield. (Library of Congress)

In 1881, Presidents did not have guards surrounding them or security escorts when traveling. Americans believed the President should be accessible to everyone. The only guard between the President and the people when he was at the White House was his secretary, Joseph Stanley- Brown. Even President Garfield, desperate to cling to any remaining freedoms after taking office, argued that he needed no more protection than the average American.
This mindset, the ability to relate with the general public, was one of the things the nation loved about Garfield. He was human to them, someone with whom nearly everyone could identify. He had grown up in extreme poverty in northern Ohio. His father had died young, and that left only his mother to raise him and his older siblings. He attended school, much of which he paid for by working before and after his classes. Entering the army during the Civil War, he rose up the ranks to become a Major General, only leaving to take a seat in Congress to which his fellow Ohioans had elected him while he fought. However, he remained a farmer and a family man, constantly challenging his children both physically and intellectually. These facts made him different than many of the presidents before him. His life story made him relatable to the average citizen. He welcomed all to his farm in Mentor, Ohio. During his campaign he spoke to all with the same tone of respect, regardless of their place in society.

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield's 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield’s 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

It was Garfield as a person, not a president, that made his death heartbreaking to many Americans. With his death, Americans united with a common feeling of loss, and a common sense of patriotism that had not been seen since before the Civil War, if ever before that.
For many, President Garfield represented not just who America was, but also what it hoped to become. With his death, Americans lost the figurehead they had made Garfield, and that loss was felt by all, regardless of race, gender, or statehood. He was someone who would not tolerate discrimination but also managed to make many in the South feel as though the government was their government, too. This was something they had not felt in years. His background allowed him to connect to the pioneers heading west, while also relating to the immigrants arriving from the east. James A. Garfield was someone that many Americans not only trusted, but loved almost as family.
For 80 days, from the shooting on July 2 to his death on September 19, the public read every newspaper and waited for each bulletin from the President’s doctors hoping for news of Garfield’s recovery. With the announcement of his death, the entire nation mourned, and many traveled to the Washington, D.C. Over 100,000 people went to the nation’s capital to view the President’s body. Everyone from poor farmers to wealthy women and African American laborers came to pay their respects. Mollie Garfield, the president’s daughter wrote in her diary about how the whole city was covered in black. From the White House to the poorest homes, the city was in full mourning. Many who could not afford anything more tore up black clothing and hung it in their windows.

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield.  (Library of Congress)

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield. (Library of Congress)

Americans were not inactive in their mourning. Over $300,000 was raised to help Lucretia and her children. Hundreds of people wrote letters sending their condolences to Lucretia, many of which she kept in the Memorial Library she created after her husband’s death. Large amounts of memorabilia for the late president were also made, and could be seen in many homes across the country. His monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the biggest and most elaborate mausoleums of its time. People wanted a lasting memorial to Garfield, much like his wife wanted when she created the Memorial Library at their home in Mentor.

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband's book collection and memory for herself and their children.  She added the

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband’s book collection and memory for herself and their children. She added the “Memory Room” to store the papers of his public career, thus creating the nation’s first presidential library. (NPS photo)

Garfield was the last president to be born in a log cabin. He was the last of many things, but the first of many more. More important than any of Garfield’s achievements during his brief presidency was the impact he had on the American people. His death truly united citizens as Americans. A man who in life had made everyone feel welcome in the United States in death made them feel as though they truly were the United States.

-Rachel Gluvna, Volunteer