While state parks struggle to stay open in California and elsewhere, things are looking up for the National Park Service (NPS), which plans to expand in 2010. Among the proposed expansion sites are California's Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve, as well as the creation of two brand-new desert parklands: the Sand to Snow National Monument and the Mojave Trails National Monument. The former would cover 134,000 acres north of Palm Springs and west of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, while the latter would connect Joshua Tree National Park with the Mojave National Preserve, including historic Route 66.
The federal legislation involved, called the California Desert Protection Act of 2010, has been introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein. It was also Feinstein who introduced the original California Desert Protection Act of 1994, which created the Mojave National Preserve and promoted Joshua Tree from a national monument to a national park. Both acts have proved controversial, as several competing interests (e.g, miners, OHVers, hunters, environmental activists) fight over who has the right to do exactly what down in the SoCal desert. But this time around, conservationists are finding themselves unusually at odds with solar-energy developers. Also at stake is the critical long-term survival of the endangered Mojave desert tortoise.
Over on the East Coast, there are rumors that Delaware will finally get its own national park. Currently it's the only state without its own NPS site. Is 2010 the magic year that will finally change that? Stay tuned.
State of the Parks 2010: Going Backward
MLK, Jr. Memorial Being Built in Washington, DC
National & California State Parks: Save Money, Show Your Support
Photo: Teutonia Peak Trail, Mojave National Preserve (Sara Benson)