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Across The United States

Azaleas Along Brick Sidewalk and Benches at Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia, USA

There are many thousands of parks scattered across the United States of America. They range from tiny little neighborhood playgrounds and individual buildings of historical significance to immense tracts of wilderness and natural beauty larger than some nations. The US parks can be loosely categorized into National Parks, State Parks, Local Parks and Private Parks.

In 1872, the US government created the first National Park when it set aside a vast tract of territory for preservation under the Yellowstone Act. In 1916, it created the National Park Service under the Federal Department of the Interior. Since then, the National Park Service (NPS) has established governance over 284 sites containing 83.6 million acres (34 million hectares).

Some of the areas under the NPS are called National Parks, some are called National Monuments or National Historical Sites. They range in size from tiny areas that include a single historical building to the immense 13.2 million acre Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska.

Nearly every National Park includes a visitor information center staffed by friendly courteous park rangers eager to help guests enjoy their visit. Most of them also include an array of facilities such as: roads, trails, parking lots, restrooms, snackbars, restaurants, hotels, camping sites, guided tours, horse or mule rides, and educational lectures. The quantity and quality of the visitor facilities vary from park to park. The most popular parks contain the widest assortment of facilities, but they often suffer from overuse. Some of the less popular parks offer only minimal facilities. The accommodations, camping, restaurants and other tourist facilities in each park are usually managed by an outside contractor.

Each of the 50 states supports a number of parks. Some of them are small recreational facilities or historic sites, while others encompass vast areas of wilderness or scenic beauty. All together, there are thousands of State Parks scattered across the USA. Some of them contain recreational facilities such as swimming, boating, hiking, tennis, camping etc. Others provide no facilities but simply preserve wilderness areas for hunting, fishing or hiking.

Thousands of parks are provided all across the USA by local governments. These are called City Parks, Municipal Parks or County Parks. They offer a variety of recreational facilities for the pleasure of local residents or visitors. Some of them include small tracts of wilderness.

An archaeological park is an archaeological site that has been preserved and opened to the public. Commonly, they preserve archaeological sites with above-ground remains, such as the large and impressive mound complexes of the Southeast and Midwest or the ancient pueblos of the Southwest.

Archaeological parks are usually managed by state or federal governments, as part of parks systems, historical societies, museums, and universities. There is a great deal of diversity among archaeological parks in their areas of development, management, and programming, although many of them offer interpretive exhibits, educational programs, and special events.

The parks predominately represent Native American sites, mainly prehistoric or early historic, although some contact-period sites are included. In the eastern United States, most of the archaeological parks are mound sites; in the west, they are often pueblo sites.

Congress established the Forest Service in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the Nation's benefit. Over the years, the public has expanded the list of what they want from national forests and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment.

National forests are America's great outdoors. They encompass 193 million acres (aprox. 78 million hectares) of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. National forests provide opportunities for recreation in open spaces and natural environments. With more and more people living in urban areas, national forests are becoming more important and valuable to Americans. People enjoy a wide variety of activities on national forests, including backpacking in remote, unroaded wilderness areas, mastering an all-terrain vehicle over a challenging trail, enjoying the views along a scenic byway, or fishing in a great trout stream, to mention just a few.

To be designated a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess characteristics of regional significance within at least one of the intrinsic qualities. All-American Roads must possess characteristics of national significance in at least two of the intrinsic qualities.

Archaeological Quality involves those characteristics of the scenic byways corridor that are physical evidence of historic or prehistoric human life or activity that are visible and capable of being inventoried and interpreted. The scenic byway corridor's archeological interest, as identified through ruins, artifacts, structural remains, and other physical evidence have scientific significance that educate the viewer and stir an appreciation for the past.

Cultural Quality is evidence and expressions of the customs or traditions of a distinct group of people. Cultural features including, but not limited to, crafts, music, dance, rituals, festivals, speech, food, special events, vernacular architecture, etc., are currently practiced. The cultural qualities of the corridor could highlight one or more significant communities and/or ethnic traditions.

Historic Quality encompasses legacies of the past that are distinctly associated with physical elements of the landscape, whether natural or manmade, that are of such historic significance that they educate the viewer and stir an appreciation for the past. The historic elements reflect the actions of people and may include buildings, settlement patterns, and other examples of human activity. Historic features can be inventoried, mapped, and interpreted. They possess integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling, and association.

Natural Quality applies to those features in the visual environment that are in a relatively undisturbed state. These features predate the arrival of human populations and may include geological formations, fossils, landform, water bodies, vegetation, and wildlife. There may be evidence of human activity, but the natural features reveal minimal disturbances.

Recreational Quality involves outdoor recreational activities directly association with and dependent upon the natural and cultural elements of the corridor's landscape. The recreational activities provide opportunities for active and passive recreational experiences. They include, but are not limited to, downhill skiing, rafting, boating, fishing, and hiking. Driving the road itself may qualify as a pleasurable recreational experience. The recreational activities may be seasonal, but the quality and importance of the recreational activities as seasonal operations must be well recognized.

Scenic Quality is the heightened visual experience derived from the view of natural and manmade elements of the visual environment of the scenic byway corridor. The characteristics of the landscape are strikingly distinct and offer a pleasing and most memorable visual experience. All elements of the landscape -- landform, water, vegetation, and manmade development -- contribute to the quality of the corridor's visual environment. Everything present is in harmony and shares in the intrinsic qualities.

State scenic byways programs across the country are helping communities to protect and promote the beauty of America's back roads. Strong scenic byways programs preserve the beauty of the designated scenic corridors. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have scenic byways programs to recognize outstanding roadways as part of the National Scenic Byways Program.

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