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Golden Spike becomes Utah’s first national historic park. Here’s what that means

Golden Spike becomes Utah’s first national historic park. Here’s what that means

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Editor's note:This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah history for's Historic section.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are quite familiar with the “Mighty 5” — the national parks found within Utah’s borders. Now, Utah has its first national historic park.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed into action the Natural Resources Management Act, which among many things, turned the Golden Spike National Historic Site into Utah’s first-ever National Historical Park.

“This is a prominent symbol of the most significant achievement of the 19th century,” Rep. Rob Bishop, Ranking Member of the Housing Committee on Natural Resources, said in a statement after the legislation was passed.

Leslie Crossland, Golden Spike National Park’s superintendent, added she hoped the change in designation would draw more people to the spot the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

So what’s a historic national park and how does it differ from a historic site and what does that mean for Promontory Summit?

The main difference between a historical park and historical site is that a historic site allows protection of a single historical feature, whereas a park can extend to more than one property or building and more resources are available, the Golden Spike Foundation stated.

This could allow more of northern Utah or any other major part of the transcontinental railroad to be preserved for history.

You can read the exact bill wording here.

This can work differently than a traditional national park. For example, the Women’s Rights Historic National Park in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, New York consists of various buildings of significance in women’s suffrage history not in one place, but in relatively close proximity to each other. There are other buildings in between that aren’t a part of the park.

The U.S. practice of preserving monuments for historic or scientific interest began with the 1906 Antiquities Act, according to the National Park Service.

Utah State History notes Golden Spike became a Historic Site in April 1957 after years of persistence by historian and journalist Bernice Gibbs Anderson, who advocated for the site to be preserved.

However, park officials point out it wasn’t until 1965 that the U.S. government “showed a tangible interest in protecting and preserving this important piece of our history and heritage” and it ended up in NPS hands.

“This recognition of the site’s importance came only after 38 long years of struggle by Bernice Gibbs Anderson, who ceaselessly campaigned for the site to take its rightful place in history, be given the protection it deserves, and to have its story told,” the park's website states.

Park officials added that four years later, 28,000 people came to the site to celebrate the centennial of the transcontinental railroad. It wasn’t until 1979 that two replica trains were moved to the site.

Another celebration is planned for the 150th anniversary this May. It’ll be at Utah’s first historical national park this time around.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.


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