Many National Park Service units are surrounded by encroaching development. As urban sprawl spreads homes, shopping centers, and timbering operations encroach right up to park boundaries, park rangers need to be alert to detect threats to protected areas. When I go back to visit Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP where I worked in the late 1970s I do not recognize many of the areas I protected that were once surrounded by woods and farms replaced with shopping centers and subdivisions. Many park boundaries are remote and with ever decreasing numbers of staff available to patrol boundaries it has become common for adjacent land owners to inadvertently and in some cases purposely impinge on park lands. In some instances homes have been built with part of the foundation on National Park Service lands. People expand their back yards, build parking lots, build more conveniently located driveways, and dump trash and lawn debris on adjacent Park Service lands.
In scenic areas home owners cut trees to open the views from their property. At the Wintergreen Resort in Virginia trees on National Park Service property have been cut down or the tops cut out to open views for vacation homes. This has been done illegally by individual home owners in the past and much of the work has been obviously done by professional trees workers. As of this date the Park Service has not been able to gather enough information and evidence to convince the US Attorney’s Office to file charges. In a similar more visible case on the C&O Canal a number of years ago trees were cleared on Park land to open the view for an expensive home. The owner was charged for the damage and not only had to pay the cost of replacing the trees but was assessed the value of increased value to his property by the view being improved. The reaction of most adjacent property owners when confronted about these violations is “who cares.” I heard this response several times during my career.
It takes time and personnel to properly patrol, post, and review boundaries in our National Parks. As Park Rangers are overloaded with other duties, boundaries and other lands protection issues are being displaced.
More on issues of access roads and crossing of park lands later.