More than 40 million people live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, yet the closest national park is a seven-hour drive for most. Officials in the area see this as an equity issue because most people don’t have access to the iconic national parks in the West, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. Donald Miles and John Kashwick, vice-chairs of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Sierra Clubs, respectively, agree that this large population needs the same access to national parks as millions of others across the country. During a webinar between the Pennsylvania and New Jersey chapters of the Sierra Club, the leaders introduced a proposal to promote the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to national park status.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a 40-mile area that stretches from the northeastern part of Pennsylvania that borders New York to western New Jersey. The park was created 500-450 million years ago and is located where the Delaware River carves the Kittatinny Ridge. The Delaware River supplies drinking water to about 10% of Americans. The surrounding area was once home to the Delaware Nation, with 12 tribes calling it home throughout history.
Creating a national park out of a pre-existing national recreation area seems arbitrary, but the title change would increase funding. Donald Miles states that the park currently sees around four million visitors per year, the same number of visitors that Yellowstone and Yosemite see. He recognizes the need for increased infrastructure in the park for the number of visitors, which would be possible to build with the funding that comes with being a national park.
Outdoor recreation areas across the country see more traffic than ever. Upgrading this national recreation area to a national park would bring essential funding to accommodate the visitors to make the park available to most people.