New York Heritage Weekend, May 19 and 20th

Organizations throughout the state will celebrate New York history during this year’s New York Heritage Weekend on May 19th & 20th. Now in its 3rd year, the weekend will offer special programs, discounted or free admission to sites and events that celebrate national, state or local heritage.

Guided hikes, local history festivals, historic garden events, open historic houses, and events that explore all kinds of New York culture and history are on tap. Last year Heritage Weekend hosted 166 Heritage Weekend events with 143 federal, state, and private organizations. For a full searchable listing of events, and maps see www.heritageweekend.org .

Not only does this Heritage Weekend celebrate New York’s rich history, but it also boosts local economies. According to recent studies, tourism generates 81 billion dollars and sustains over 670,000 jobs in New York. According to a recent study recent commissioned by the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce, 78% of US domestic travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities.

“Heritage Weekend opens the door to so many of New York’s great historic and cultural treasures,” said Beth Sciumeca, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “Once that door is open, people will find that there is a lifetime of places to experience throughout the state.”

New York Heritage Weekend 2012 is funded in part by The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and sponsored by I Love NY, National Park Service, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and participating event partners.

Tree Removal Planned for Vanderbilt Mansion NHS

The National Park Service (NPS) will soon begin work to remove hazardous trees along Route 9 at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park (Dutchess County).

After a public comment period and agency reviews, the NPS made the decision to remove only trees that have been identified as high or severe risks to public safely. 100 trees will be removed out of the approximately 700 trees in this area. Once tree removal has been completed, 200 white pine trees will be planted in the understory, with the goal of re-establishing a visual barrier between the highway and estate grounds.  

During the project, the park will remain open to the public, but the work area will be closed for safety reasons. Some minor traffic delays may occur on Route 9 when trees leaning over the highway are removed.

Women’s Rights Sites Offer Field Trip Funds

Women’s Rights National Historical Park is offering an opportunity for school and youth groups to submit applications for transportation funding to visit the sites associated with the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention. This is part of an ongoing effort by the National Park Service to bring under-served and underrepresented school and youth groups to place-based learning experiences in national parks.

“Women’s Rights National Historical Park interprets the history of the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention,” said Park Superintendent Tammy Duchesne. “This program represents a unique opportunity for school and youth groups to visit these nationally significant historic sites.”

Any New York State school or youth group staff person, teacher, or administrator wishing to obtain funds for bus transportation to Women’s Rights National Historical Park may apply. Applications for transportation funding will be accepted for both ranger-guided and self-guided programs.

Applications may be found on the park’s website– they must be received by close of business Friday, May 4, 2012. Applications may be e-mailed to Park Ranger David Malone at David_Malone@nps.gov, or faxed to (315) 568-2141. They may also be sent by US mail to Park Ranger David Malone, Women’s Rights NHP, 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148.

All applicants must register on the Federal Central Contractor Website and must also have a DUNS number. All applications will be evaluated, and those groups which receive funding will be notified after Friday, May 11, 2012. All field trips must be completed by July 31, 2012, in order to receive funding.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park describes its various educational opportunities under the “For Teachers” link on the park website.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming programs.

You can also learn about the park’s latest activities by reading its most recent newsletter [pdf].

Photo courtesy New York, We Are on Our Way!.

NPS Historian Talk on FDR, Hyde Park Memorial

National Park Service Historian, Dr. Dennis Montagna will present a talk entitled “A Designing President—FDR and his Enduring Memorial” this Sunday, April 15 at 2:00 PM. The talk will be held at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center located at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York. It is free and open to the public.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt left detailed instructions regarding his burial in the rose garden at his Hyde Park estate. He also designed the monument to mark the site. Dr. Montagna will share information about the reasons behind FDR ‘s burial decisions and how some of his last wishes were not instituted.


After the presentation, there will be an informal ceremony in the Rose Garden to mark the 67th anniversary of FDR’s burial.

The talk coincides with the opening of a new exhibit in the Roosevelt Carriage House entitled: “Enduring Memorial: FDR’s Final Resting Place”. Beginning April 15, the exhibit is open daily 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The Carriage House is located behind the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Free Access to National Parks During Park Week

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, are inviting people everywhere to enjoy, explore, learn, share, and give back to America’s nearly 400 national parks during National Park Week 2012.

Celebrating the theme, “Picture Yourself in a National Park,” National Park Week will run from Saturday, April 21 through Sunday, April 29. Throughout the country, visitors can enjoy the beauty and wonder of 84 million acres of the world’s most spectacular scenery, historic places and cultural treasures for free.

National parks will mark the annual celebration with special events and activities including Volunteer Day on April 21, Earth Day on April 22, and Junior Ranger Day on April 28. From ranger-led hikes and kayak trips to camping and exploring, park visitors can plan their National Park Week online. Discover information about events, special activities for visitors of all ages, how to share your park adventure with other travelers, and how to support the parks.

“America’s national parks have something for everyone,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Take a break and experience something new, enjoy some fresh air, get some exercise, and see where history happened. And, since admission is free to all 397 parks, all week long, National Park Week is a great time to get up, get out, and explore a park.”

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 397 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.

Major Study Finds Park Service History Imperiled

A new report examining the practice and presentation of American history at the National Park Service (NPS) from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) conclude that &#8220the agency’s ability to manage its sites&#8230- has been imperiled by the agency’s weak support for its history workforce, by agency structures that confine history in isolated silos, by longstanding funding deficiencies, by often narrow and static conceptions of history’s scope, and by timid interpretation.&#8221

&#8220All but a handful of&#8221 of NPS historians responding to a survey conducted for the study painted a &#8220bleak picture&#8221 of the state of the agency historical efforts:

&#8220They describe NPS history as &#8216-an afterthought’ relegated to &#8216-small cubicles and minor sideshows’ and therefore either &#8216-stagnant and irrelevant to today’s generation and issues’ or &#8216-moribund, old-fashioned, and largely irrelevant, with a couple of spots of fearlessness and innovation.’ It is &#8216-erratic,’ one respondent says, &#8216-outstanding in some places, awful in others.’ &#8216-Underfunded, undervalued, underutilized and misunderstood,’ summarizes another, while several express a sense of decline: history in the Park Service, respondents asserted, is &#8216-deteriorating’- &#8216-losing ground’- and &#8216-threatened.’

The report highlighted several specific shortcomings at NPS including, among others:

An underemphasis and underfunding of historical work as priorities shifted to natural resources, law enforcement, and other concerns-

An artificial separation of cultural resources management from interpretation-

An artificial separation of natural resources interpretation from cultural and historical
interpretation-

An overemphasis on mandated compliance activities at the expense of other ways history
can be practiced- and

A misperception of history as a tightly bounded, single and unchanging “accurate” story, with one true significance, rather than an ongoing discovery process in which narratives change over time as generations develop new questions and concerns, and multiple perspectives are explored.

The report makes or endorses nearly one hundred recommendations including:

A concerted effort to invest in adequate staffing and restored funding for history-

Formal and informal mechanisms to improve communication and reduce isolation both within and beyond the agency to &#8220maximize synergies with an array of external partners&#8221-

A number of professional training, competency and historian employment recommendations-

Make NPS scholarship more widely available, both within and outside the agency-

Establishing a History Leadership Council, comprising the agency’s most talented and influential historians and interpreters, and a History Advisory Board &#8220comprising the nation’s leading public history professionals from beyond the agency—the most innovative curators, the most insightful scholars, the most savvy administrators&#8221- and

Encourage the OAH and the history profession to expand support history in the NPS.

The report is the result of a 2008 request by the NPS chief historian’s office to undertake a study of “the State of History in the National Park Service.” The report was produced by four historians: Anne Mitchell Whisnant (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Marla Miller (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Gary Nash (University of California, Los Angeles), and David Thelen (Indiana University).

The report’s methodology included an electronic questionnaire sent to over 1,500 members of NPS’s permanent staff who have some responsibility for history, solicited perspectives
from retired and current NPS historians and administrators, and also external stakeholders such as historians in colleges and universities who have worked closely with the agency. The report’s producers visited dozens of parks and conducted seven large-group listening sessions at annual meetings of the OAH, National Council on Public History, and National Association for Interpretation. They also consulted OAH-sponsored site-visit reports, NPS administrative histories, and previous studies including the 1963 Leopold Report as well as the 1966 study With Heritage so Rich.

The full report, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service is available online [pdf].

Historians Should Promote Preservation

In recent articles several authors have pointed out the multifaceted world that is New York history. Museums, historical societies, historical agencies on all levels and the local government historians all play a role in our efforts to ensure the continued importance of this state’s history and heritage. Is this the right approach or should there be a more top down method to our madness? Whatever your answer is to that question, the same divergent pattern is found in historic preservation in the Empire State. Read more

Study: NY National Parks Support Economy

A new National Park Service (NPS) report concludes that 17,389,242 national park visitors in New York in 2010 spent $490,911,000 and supported 5,780 jobs in the state.

Most of the spending/jobs are related to lodging, food, and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment/amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).

The figures are based on $12 billion of direct spending by 281 million visitors in 394 national parks and nearby communities and are included in an annual, peer-reviewed, visitor spending analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service.

The National Parks in New York include: African Burial Ground National Monument, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Castle Clinton National Monument, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Federal Hall National Memorial, Fire Island National Seashore, Fort Stanwix National Monument, Gateway National Recreation Area, General Grant National Memorial, Governors Island National Monument, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Saint-Paul’s Church National Historic Site, Saratoga National Historical Park, Statue of Liberty National Monument, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, and Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

Across the U.S., local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy and supported more than 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009 the report concludes.

The report is available online– click on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Searching For MacDonoughs War of 1812 Shipyard

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has received a grant of $23,985 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) to undertake an archeological survey to determine the precise location and established boundaries for MacDonough’s War of 1812 Shipyard in Vergennes, Vermont.

&#8220We are proud to support projects like this that safeguard and preserve American battlefields,&#8221 said Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. &#8220These places are symbols of individual sacrifice and national heritage that we must protect so that this and future generations can understand the struggles that define us as a nation.&#8221


This grant is one of25 National Park Service grants totaling $1.2 million to preserve and protect significant battle sites from all wars fought on American soil. Funded projects preserve battlefields from the Colonial­ Indian Wars through World War II and include site mapping (GPS/GIS data collection), archeological studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, preservation and management plans.

Federal, state, local, and Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions are eligible for National Park Service battlefield grants which are awarded annually. Since 1996 more than $12 million has been awarded by ABPP to help preserve significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.

Additional information is online at www.nps.gov/history/hpslabpp. To find out more about how the National Park Service helps communities with historic preservation and recreation projects please visit www.nps.gov/communities.

Artist conception of MacDonough’s War of 1812 Lake Champlain Shipyard Workers by Kevin Crisman, LCMM Collection).

Hudson River Valley NPS Bill Reintroduced

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have reintroduced legislation to authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on whether the Hudson River Valley should become a unit of the National Park system. Under such a distinction, it’s expected the region would benefit from greater national attention, additional federal resources to support and preserve heritage sites, and increased regional tourism, all of which are hoped would contribute to job creation and economic growth.

&#8220The Hudson River Valley has inspired artists for centuries, fueled the industrial development of our nation for generations and played a vital role in the American Revolution and founding of our Republic,&#8221 Hinchey said. &#8220This region deserves to be recognized by the National Park Service for its historical and natural significance and should receive the federal resources and economic benefits that would come with such a recognition. This bill takes the first step by allowing the National Park Service to study if the Valley would be a good fit within the National Parks system. I am so proud to again bring forward this legislation with the support Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate.&#8221

&#8220We’re still unlocking the Hudson River Valley’s potential,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Hudson River Valley is truly one of America’s richest treasures. From the Adirondacks to the busy ports of New York City, the Hudson River fuels our economy, inspires our artists, and provides New Yorkers with miles of adventure and endless recreation. As New York’s first Senator from Upstate in nearly 40 years, I will always work to preserve the beauty and tradition of the Hudson River Valley, and this bill takes the first step to getting the national recognition it deserves.”

The legislation, entitled The Hudson River Valley Special Resource Study Act, is similar to the bill which passed in the House last year. The Hudson River Valley is already designated as a federal National Heritage Area and state Greenway, but the current federal designation provides only limited funding that is subject to change each budget year. A designation as a National Park unit would provide more consistent and expanded federal support, including National Park Service staff and national attention to the region, all of which would help to boost tourism and preserve and restore the region’s historic sites and cultural resources.

In order for the Hudson River Valley to become a unit of the National Park System, a congressionally-authorized NPS study must be conducted. Hinchey and Gillibrand’s legislation would authorize such a study for the counties within the borders of current the Hudson River National Heritage Area. Specifically, the area to be studied would include the counties abutting the Hudson River that flows from Rogers Island at Fort Edward in Washington County to the southern boundary of Westchester County.

The bill provides guidelines designed to ensure that the NPS study recognizes the unique realities of the Hudson River Valley and its differences from more traditional National Park Service units. These guidelines require the NPS to examine park unit models, in particular national river and recreation areas, as well as other landscape protection models, that: encompass large areas of non-federal lands within their designated boundaries- foster public and private collaborative arrangements for achieving NPS objectives, and protect and respect the rights of private land owners. No forced land acquisition activities would be permitted.

Following a study, subsequent legislation would be required for a National Park Service unit designation to move forward. In the event that such subsequent legislation were to pass, all activities that are currently permissible under state or local laws would be unaffected because the National Park Service would have no legal authority to overrule state or local laws and policies on non-federal lands, such as those governing hunting and fishing, regardless of whether the region sits within a nationally designated unit of the park system.

Hinchey has long sought greater recognition, protection, and federal and state resources for the Hudson River Valley. As a member of the New York State Assembly, Hinchey authored the legislation that led to the creation of the Hudson River Valley Greenway. In Congress, he authored legislation that led to the designation of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, which provides technical assistance to local communities or local managers to assist them in managing natural and historic sites of national importance.