Science, Tech & Environment

New monuments join National Park System this summer

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Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is one of five new National Monuments in the United States this summer.

It's a kind of familiar ritual of summer: pack up the family and head out for the great American road trip -- maybe to camp and visit some of our national parks and monuments.

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This summer, there are a couple of new additions to the national park system you might consider seeing. Joan Anzelmo, of the National Park Service Retirees group, said three new parks were added to the National Park System in time for this summer: Charles Young Buffalo Soldier’s National Monument in Ohio, First State National Monument in Delaware, and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland.

In addition, San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in the Taos Plateau were also added to the Bureau of Land Management system, she said.

The three new parks all share in common that they celebrate people and ideas, rather than places. The Buffalo Soldier monument, for example, pays tribute to the African Americans who served in the Union Army during and after the Civil War, while the Harriet Tubman museum captures the history of the underground railroad, which brought slaves to freedom in the north before slavery was abolished.

And the first state monument is a tribute to Delaware's status as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

"When you learn a little bit about Col. Charles Young, who led the Buffalo soldiers late in the 1800s, he has a phenomenal story that I certainly wasn’t aware of until I began to study what this monument is all about," Anzelmo said. 

Young was the first African American to reach the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army and only the third African American to graduate from West Point. Ironically, he went on to become the first superintendant of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park.

But the new monuments will have to compete with the established parks as funding becomes increasingly tight, due in part to the sequester.

"My colleagues, who still work in the National Park Service where I once worked, have told me and my colleagues in the coalition that they’re having a really hard time," Anzelmo said. "They have reduced seasonal staff levels. Obviously the cost of doing business is much more expensive in 2013 than it was a few years ago, and yet the budgets have remained fixed."