Sierra Club to talk about expanding national park

Redesignating conjoining other area forest land may restrict encroachment

An initiative is underway to expand and redesignate the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area as a National Park and Preserve.

Sone believe such a change, if successful, could help safeguard the area from current possible encroachment, including sprawling development, new gas lines, PPL's proposed plans to substantially increase the size and wattage of existing transmission lines and hydraulic fracking throughout the Marcellus shale region.

The effort is being led by the Sierra Club, which was founded in 1892 and is one of the country's oldest environmental groups, with chapters in all 50 states.

The public is invited to attend a kick-off event on Sunday, June 12, to raise awareness and grow grassroots strength behind the campaign. The kick-off will include a picnic, talk and discussion and will begin at 1 p.m. at Turtle Beach, along the Delaware River in the DWGNRA in New Jersey.

"We don't have any specific plan in mind, we're exploring options," said John Kashwick, a volunteer and the Wildlands Issues coordinator for the Sierra Club's New Jersey Chapter.

As a member of the National Parks and Monuments team, Kashwick works on a number of Federal Lands issues and seeks out potential locations for the establishment or expansion of new parks.

"Seeing that the DWG is so close to population centers, we thought it would be an ideal place for a national park," Kashwick said. "There are a number of threats to the park going on: gas lines to go through from a Tennessee authority; power lines already there that wants to expand; there's the threat of hydraulic fracking; and the threat of suburban sprawl encroaching on the park area. So we're looking for the best way to protect the park's natural resources.

"The event on Sunday is to gather people's ideas. One of the things we're proposing is that it become a national park where you'd have greater protections "¦ not so much legal, but public perception."

Kashwick would like to see the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area raised to a status similar to that of Yellowstone National Park, which sees some level of protection by way of its public estimation.

A formal proposal would urge Congress to request a study to upgrade and expand the 66,740-acre national park area to a 265,000-acre national park and preserve, encompassing adjacent federal and state lands, as well as connecting private lands.

Potential additions would include the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River in New York and Pennsylvania (authorized for 55,575 acres); Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge (authorized for 20,466 acres), Delaware State Forest (72,942 acres), and State Game Lands Nos. 116, 209 and 316 (21,502 acres) in Pennsylvania; High Point State Park (15,827 acres), Stokes State Forest (16,067 acres) and Worthington State Forest in New Jersey; Hickock Brook Multiple Use Area (1,064 acres), Minisink Battleground State Park (57 acres) and Mongaup Valley Bird Conservation Area (11,967 acres) in New York.

"We're looking for a national park and preserve (status), not to take away the rights of hunters," Kashwick said. "Any existing areas in the park where hunting is permitted would continue but any expanded area we'd have to look at."

Promoting national parks would be good for the tri-state region — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York — by encouraging tourism as well as stronger protection of park resources, Kashwick said, adding that jointly managed park service could also help the states survive budget cuts.

Encompassing 40 miles along the Delaware River, the DWGNRA provides habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal life, including numerous species of songbirds, eagles and turkey vultures and wintering quarters for a variety of snakes and larger animals such as black bears.

It also includes archaeological remains of Native American settlements in the area from prehistoric and colonial times, fortifications from the French and Indian War and evidence of farming and mining in the 19th century. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail traverses the length of the park.

For more information about the Sierra Club, Sunday's event, or how to become involved, visit online at

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