Reactions to NPS Non-recommendation of the Pike Trail

The following comments have been selected from high level people in the trail community. The names of these persons have been withheld out of respect for them, and consideration for future efforts. Note: Specific words have been redacted and replaced by our words in [brackets] to preserve the identity of the person who is being...

The following comments have been selected from high level people in the trail community. The names of these persons have been withheld out of respect for them, and consideration for future efforts.

Note: Specific words have been redacted and replaced by our words in [brackets] to preserve the identity of the person who is being quoted.

One Response to the NPS Decision

“The NPS decision is not based on the historical importance of Pike’s route; it is a rejection because the NPS does not want more work.

By any balanced historical evaluation, Pike’s Southwest Expedition was at least ten times more significant than [other explorers] when it comes to national development. That apparently doesn’t matter today.

[One trail] includes only about half of the actual historical route, but all efforts to include the entire trail have been blocked every time by NPS. One Congressman declared in a public meeting with the [___Trail Association] the NPS bureaucrats objected. A bureaucracy should not have the final say. Congress exists for that purpose. Finding members of Congress who will support a bill designating Pike’s route as a National Historic Trail is not easy but should not be impossible. One member of Congress who wants to see it done can do it.

[A] NHS was created and funded because of one very persistent member of Congress, Bob Dole. When Dole proposed reconstruction of the blockhouse at [site name] after it was designated a National Historic Site, NPS responded that they do not do reconstructions (although they did). Dole introduced the legislation for the restoration, and reportedly told NPS if they blocked it, he would see that their budget was cut. The reconstruction was done. You have to find that member of Congress who will fight and not let the bureaucrats rule. You can bet that, if the focus of the Pike Trail was an important site connected to Indigenous Americans, it would have been recommended favorably by the NPS. That connection can be made and should be heavily emphasized.”

[Author’s name redacted to preserve identity.]

Another Response to the NPS Decision

“An excellent communication!!! Yes, the NPS Criteria is subjective. In fact, rejecting the Pike study fails to comply with the Park Service Mission Statement.

You have defined an “opportunity out of defeat”.  Keep the focus for the good of all people.

This note is for your review but you are welcome to share as you desire. My bluntness can be offensive to some. When a government agency, at any jurisdictional level, is not serving the people, the question begs an answer, who are they serving?

  • The Park Service knows how to hire but have no sense of how to fire. And you, with your taxes, continue to pay them.
  • I’ve told you several times that the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is the craw for the top by epsilon at the park service and Why no more trails.
  • It costs less for trails than it does for any of the other entities of the Park Service, like the national parks and recent additions to the park service responsibilities.”

[Author’s name redacted to preserve identity.]

An Additional Response to the NPS Decision

“First of all, I would like to say “Thank You” for all that you have been doing to get the trail designated. The vision is a great one and worthy of continued persistence.

I am curious how others found out.  I received an email from the National Park Service on September 14th, a form letter type email, stating that the trail failed to meet the criteria for eligibility as a national historic trail.   The email included a link to the full study 46 page study. I assume I received the email because I had submitted a comment during the public comment period in support of the designation.

My opinion is that the reasons cited in the NPS study used to justify their decision not to recommend designation are weak, inaccurate, and biased against our American heritage, which is what the national historic trail system is supposed to celebrate.

Here’s one example of bias that I’m referencing directly from the study: “Pike seesawed throughout the twentieth century, with some echoing Cox’s criticisms (or worse) and others defending Pike as an overtasked officer trying to do his best. Given his mixed results and the lingering controversy regarding Wilkinson and Burr, the legacy of Pike’s southwestern expedition remains ambiguous to this day. Unfortunately, the main source of Pike’s notoriety—Pikes Peak—is of little use in clarifying the expedition’s legacy. Place names have their own histories, and thus speak mostly to the eras in which they were bestowed. Although his name graces a well-known mountain, Pike’s legacy and historical significance have changed over time; in fact, momentum is building behind a proposal to change the name of Pikes Peak to Tava (the Ute word for ‘mountain’). Despite Pike’s name recognition, his legacy remains ambiguous and his cultural relevance debatable—thus falling short of the bar for national significance established by the NTSA.”

I’m not at all surprised that the proposal “failed” to meet eligibility criteria given the context of bias but promoting our wonderful American heritage and the opening of the West is a fight worth fighting.

There are 21 national historic trails (see link below).  How is it possible that one of the most famous names in the history of the American West (Pike) is not eligible but these others are?   I think we should investigate whether there is a legal process for appealing the decision.

National Historic Trails – National Trails System (U.S. National Park Service) (

Additionally, might there also be a new strategy from this organization to skip the NPS and go straight to receptive members of Congress and other influencers to drive the vision to success? You mention that in the newsletter.   How can we organize to make this effective?”

[Author’s name redacted to preserve identity.]

The Pike Association President’s Response

Many people called me on Saturday, after I published the newsletter including those from Canada and Europe who formally contributed signed documents of Support.

All four of the founding Association members called on Saturday or emailed. Leo Oliva, Clive Siegle, John Patrick Michael Murphy, and Hal Jackson. After 17 years the 5 of us are still together.

The roosters from all over the place came to roost.

A retired NPS person is proposing a way around this is non-recommendation. He/she is choosing to become personally involved because of personal interest.

A second possibility came from a member and we are working on it right now, and this goes several steps further than many suggest. The Zebulon Pike International Historic Trail [ZPIT] – it skips the park service.

We can still get the word out and promote Pike’s legacy for the public. And to heck with the park service. No designation needed and we can immediately promote Pike’s first and second expedition, his death, and his early life, etc. No more spending 14 months on the feasibility study that turned up nothing.