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Parks and Public Lands


In the United States, parks are managed by governmental agencies. These agencies fall into three categories: national, state, and municipal. People interested in working for a park system become employees of the national, state, or municipal government entity that manages the specific park. In addition to the jobs that are inherent in every business, such as accountants, purchasing agents, and marketing personnel, the most common jobs at parks are the park manager, park ranger, education specialists or program managers, conservationists, and public information specialists.

The United States has a long history of valuing and caring for public land in the form of national parks. These parks are open to the public and provide a place for recreation in many forms, as well as the opportunity to interact with nature in a more natural setting. Most parks provide programming of some kind to attract visitors, and others also provide lodges, cabins, or campgrounds, where visitors can stay on site for several days.

In addition to the work involved with ensuring the safety and smooth stay for all visitors to the park, workers also care for the grounds and keep careful reports about the conditions of the forests, water sources, and nature that are part of them.

The number of acres of national parkland is the largest of the three types of parkland. The National Park Service reports that it administers more than 419 park areas comprising more than 85 million acres in all 50 states and U.S. territories. State parks also are widespread across the country and present many employment opportunities. According to America's State Parks, an organization representing state parks, there are about 8,565 state park areas in the country, and they receive more than 807 million visits annually. City parks, while not representing the extent of land or units that national or state parks do, is a division of parks that is growing and may present the most opportunities. This is due to the fact that many people are moving to larger cities because of better employment opportunities. In turn, cities are creating more park areas to accommodate larger populations that value the green space that parks provide. Large urban areas are developing unique parks, such as parks derived from elevated train tracks, to attract more people to reside in their busy city centers. All of these developments have created the need for park workers to manage these resources and offer programming to increase the number of people who use them.

The U.S. park system was first developed in 1781, as the new nation began acquiring more land. The original portion of the public domain, or federally owned land, consisted of lands ceded by seven eastern states. The ordinance of 1785 stipulated that none of it could be sold until it was surveyed. In 1812, the U.S. Congress established the General Land Office to administer the public domain, but it wasn't until the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934, that management of public lands was established. The act instituted the U.S. Grazing Service to provide active range management on public domain lands. Although the park system has expanded and retracted over the years, the many health and economic benefits of maintaining a park system has led to the preservation, conservation, and establishment of existing and new parks. The Trust for Public Land conducts studies in support of conservation efforts. In 2015, a review of Long Island parks was completed by U.S. Geological Survey economists and found the cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $29.7 billion. Chris Soller, Superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore stated that for every dollar invested in the state parks, they received a 10 dollar return. The Department of the Interior reported that in 2018, visitors spent more than $20 billion in communities within 60 miles in the National Park System.