Group Continues Efforts to Make Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area a National Park | Pennsylvania News

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The waterfalls of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offer spectacular shots after recent heavy rains.

“We drove by yesterday. I spoke to some locals and they said this was the place to go,” Chuck Wolfe said.

But Wolfe and his wife Julie from Indiana, who try to visit every national park they can, almost missed it because it’s not considered a national park.

“If it would have been the Delaware Water Gap National Park, do you think you would have heard of it before coming?” I asked.

“Yes. Absolutely,” they replied.

Covering nearly 70,000 acres in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap became a National Recreation Area in 1965.

It is one of 420 National Park Service units. It welcomes between 3.5 and 4 million people a year, numbers close to Yellowstone and more than the Grand Tetons.

But former Superintendent John Donahue says Delaware Water Gap isn’t getting the outside respect it should.

“People come here from Europe, from all over the United States to visit all the national parks, there are over 60. But you don’t hear people say, damn it, I want to go to all the areas recreation,” he said.

Only Congress can designate a national park. However, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey chapters of the Sierra Club are launching grassroots efforts to make the Delaware Water Gap the nation’s 65th national park.

“Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York don’t have a national park. In fact, there’s no national park between Acadia in Maine and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia,” said the vice president of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, Don Miles.

Miles said the new designation will boost tourism for the local economy, as it is less than three hours away from 60 million people.

John Kashwick, vice president of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said that by becoming a national park, DWG could expand significantly by adding already contiguous preserved lands. He says it could potentially save threatened prospects.

“Also help the region by being another lever that we could pull to prevent some of these distribution centers from coming in and taking our farmland and woodlands,” he said.

There was pressure to do so before, but concerns from hunters caused the proposal to fail.

However, this time supporters say it’s different, and they have the model to prove it. It is the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia. Formed in 2020, it allows hunting, which Donahue says would be the case in the gap.

However, Doug Kosh, owner of Phoenix Antiques since 1969, which sits inside the recreation area, doesn’t necessarily think being a national park is worth the headaches that come with it.

“We don’t seem to have the capacity to handle huge numbers of people at any of our locations,” he said.

He cites the closure of Adams Falls, damaged by excessive cliff jumping, and Childs Park as key examples.

But the Sierra Club and Donahue say funding would increase by being a national park, which would better address those issues.

“It could take a long time, but hopefully the lightning strikes and spreads,” Donahue said.

So those like the Wolfes don’t skip the otherwise unseen spectacular scenes.

The issue was not discussed in Congress. The groups say they want to have a solid base from all parties involved, including hunters, hikers, area municipalities, before taking the issue to Congress.

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