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There at the beginning: Two More National Park “Fathers”

In a prior blog, we highlighted Ernest F. Coe, deemed the Father of the Everglades National Park. Within the correspondence to Stephen Mather, we have notes from two other conservationists whose championing efforts for the creation and development of Acadia and Denali earned them the same sobriquet. 


George Dorr (1853-1944) is known as the Father of Acadia National Park.  Dorr presented 5,000 acres of land to the federal government, and in 1916 President Wilson announced the creation of Sieur de Monts National Monument. More property was acquired and Dorr continued efforts to obtain full national park status for the monu-ment. In 1919, President Wilson signed the act establishing Lafayette National Park and Dorr became the first park superintendent. In 1929 park’s current name, Acadia National Park, was adopted.


Like Acadia, Denali National Park began with another name, Mount McKinley National Park, although Charles Sheldon (1867-1928), now recognized as the Father of Denali National Park, lobbied for the park to be Denali from the outset.  According to the NPS website: “On January 13th, 1916, hunter-naturalist Charles Sheldon made an appeal to Thomas Riggs of the Alaska Engineering Commission regarding the naming of the park and its crown jewel: ‘I hope that in the bill you will call it ‘Mt Denali National Park’ so that the true old Indian [sic] name of Mt Denali (meaning ‘the Great One’) will thus be preserved.’”  That was not to be, at least for 64 years.   From its founding until 1980, the park was Mt. McKinley National Park.


Sheldon first proposed the park to Stephen Mather in December 1915 and by the following month had received support from Mather and Interior Secretary Lane.   The bill to create the park passed Congress on February 19, 1917.  In recognition of his park idea and tireless efforts to bring it to fruition—Charles Sheldon was delegated to deliver the act personally to President Wilson, who signed it on February 26, 1917, and gave the pen to Sheldon.


Despite its remoteness, Denali National Park received nearly 500,000 visitors in 2023, while Acadia National Park was host to more than 3.9 million visitors.  



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