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The thorny push for Pa.'s first national park

Plus, Gritty in space and Acrisure Stadium protest shirts.


July 15, 2022
Inside this edition: Quiz show, 'Keith from Kutztown,' little league sellouts, Gritty is a superstar, and the quest for Pa.'s first-ever national park.

Last week we asked you all to answer five questions to prove your Pennsylvania prowess. Here they are:  

  1. What is Pennsylvania's state amphibian? 
  2. Youse is to yinz as Wawa is to ___________.
  3. How many counties are there in Pennsylvania? 
  4. True or false: Pennsylvania is called the Cornerstone State? 
  5. Which Pennsylvania town has been on fire for 60 years? 

Keep scrolling for the answers and the winners, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.

» One thing worth knowing: Pennsylvania is getting three new state parks thanks to a $56 million down payment in the state's new budget. The locations haven't been determined yet — or have they?

» One place worth pinning: Famed pop artist Keith Haring was a Berks County native who went by "Keith from Kutztown" in NYC. Hyperallergic has a guide to finding the late artist's work in his hometown.

» One thing worth trying: Pennsylvania's Ice Cream Trail is back for a fifth sweltering summer, offering a slate of creameries, a way to track your progress online, and a branded ice cream scooper for diehards.

» One thing worth reading: "How America Sold Out Little League Baseball" is a piece by Pittsburgh journalist John Miller for America Magazine that aims to pinpoint where youth sports went wrong.

» Four things worth seeing: Gritty in celestial form, Acrisure Stadium protest shirts, outfoxed in Media, and Wildcat ending.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

» What's inside Pa.'s new $45 billion budget

» How Pa. will spend billions in federal stimulus cash

» Big election funding deal has strings attached

» Pa. Senate seeks to declare no right to an abortion

» Your guide to Pa.'s new child care tax credit
  The Delaware Water Gap. (Jim Lukach / Flickr)

If all goes according to John Donahue’s plan, the next U.S. national park will be Pennsylvania’s first.

Donahue is leading a state-endorsed push to have the existing Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where he once served as superintendent, re-designated by Congress — the coveted “national park” distinction meaning more resources, visitors, and legal protections.

The existing recreation area is a stunning 70,000-acre swath of federal land spanning two states and portions of the Appalachian Trail and Kittatinny Ridge.

From a user-experience standpoint, the tangible changes under a national park title would be minimal, aside from larger crowds and a possible entry fee (the water gap charges for some amenities already). Supporters of the project say placing this well-traveled landmark into the “jeweled crown of the national park system” would recognize “what is already a reality.”

There is no firm timeline for that to happen. Donahue said organizers have an ASAP mindset but are “in it for as long as it takes,” adding that related legislation and consensus-building take time to root.

He continued: “Some people say, ‘What’s the hurry?’ But it’s been 8 or 10 years since the idea was first introduced. I think the only people in a hurry are the ones trying to stop it.”

The opposition alluded to there includes NIMBY factions, at least one local government, and — as of last week — Democratic U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.

But sportsmen’s groups have remained among the most frequent critics, citing concerns about a loss of huntable acres under the national park label — a complaint raised when the idea was first floated a decade ago and again when it was reinvigorated last summer.

In a compromise of sorts, national park boosters, including Donahue and area Sierra Club chapters, are calling for the creation of a sprawling preserve honoring the indigenous Lenape people to encircle the national park. While hunting would not be allowed in the park, it would be allowed in the preserve. (West Virginia’s new national park struck a similar deal.)

John Donahue near Raymondskill Falls. (Tyger Williams / Philadelphia Inquirer)

Both the national park and surrounding preserve — with a planned Lenape cultural center — would utilize federal lands that make up the national recreation area now. 

“We would divide it up with 10% or 15% of the land becoming the national park, which would run like an emerald ribbon of green along the Delaware River and other attractions in the watershed, including some of the waterfalls and things like that,” Donahue explained.

While several Lenape tribes and nations told PA Local they have no objection to the proposal in theory, none knew enough about it to be certain. 

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” said Chief Brad KillsCrow of The Delaware Tribe of Indians in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, one of three federally recognized Lenape tribes in the U.S. that were forcibly removed from homelands in and around the Delaware River and water gap and driven west. 

“If somebody’s going to talk about our tribes, our ancestors, and our history, it’d be nice to be involved in that.”

Representatives of another tribe — the Delaware Nation in Anadarko, Oklahoma — told PA Local that while their Historic Preservation Office has a vague recollection of being approached about the project some time ago, they’ve heard nothing since.

Adam Waterbear DePaul, a tribal council member with the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, which is not federally recognized, said they haven’t heard from organizers either.

“It came to our attention through backchannels,” he said. “We have not been involved at all.”

A release from the Sierra ​​Club’s New Jersey chapter trumpeting the project — formally dubbed the Delaware River National Park and Lenape Preserve by organizers — touts the “informal endorsement from many tribal leaders” and upcoming “formal endorsement” from several tribal nations. 

Donahue was less definitive, saying, “I didn’t put that out.” 

He added: “A member of our steering committee has reached out to various tribes and federally recognized tribes and we need to circle back. The plan is evolving. We want to hear from the tribes and their representatives on what they would like to see happen.”

There are fault lines to navigate in doing so, including longstanding tensions between federally recognized tribes, like those in Oklahoma, and non-federally recognized tribes, like DePaul’s, in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — all of which want their input considered.

Donahue said the efforts of a small-but-dedicated steering committee will continue on that and several other fronts, with a multitude of stakeholders to engage and in some cases win over. 

It's worth noting that several influential sportsmen's groups remain opposed to the plan even with the pro-hunting preserve included.

“We want to hear from the tribes … and we hope to gain the support of the sportsmen,” Donahue said, the ultimate goal being to “create something that’s the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest amount of time, as [former governor] Gifford Pinchot told us.”

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

"Lots of people leave Pennsylvania limping and bruised. The state also has what are reputed to be the meanest rattlesnakes anywhere on the trail." 

—Bill Bryson in his book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, which was made into a film starring Robert Redford

Shroom-spotting at the Stroud Preserve, via @mar_sees_life. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania

Five questions. Five answers. Unlimited bragging rights. Here are the correct responses to last week's trivia quintet.
  1. The hellbender or snot otter is Pennsylvania's state amphibian.
  2. Youse is to yinz as Wawa is to Sheetz.
  3. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania.
  4. Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, not the Cornerstone State. 
  5. And the town of Centralia has been on fire for 60 years
Congrats to Sue W.Jane L., Brian O., David M., and Don H. They were the first five lightning-fast readers to get all of the answers right and have won themselves some shiny new PA Local merchandise. 

Honorable mentions for Sally H.Brian S.Dennis L.Kathy O.Joyce O.Bill M.Will R.Dante T.Marvin E.Jennifer R.Robin J.Kathleen E., Deb M.Lillian G.Felicia Z.Andi H.Tim L., and Cheryl D.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? Or, share your favorite recipes!
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