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Health, Science & Environment

Cuyahoga Valley National Park signs Sister Park agreement with England's Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor National Park CEO Kevin Bishop and CVNP Superintendent Lisa Petit sit at a table to sign the sister park arrangement.
Aaron Self
/
Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Dartmoor National Park CEO Kevin Bishop and Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Lisa Petit sign a five-year Sister Park arrangement on Thursday, June 6, 2024.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park signed a Sister Park agreement with Dartmoor National Park in England Thursday to foster collaboration on conservation practices.

The five-year partnership marks the first time the National Park Service has partnered with a UK-based national park. The relationship provides an opportunity to learn from each other's experiences and identify ways to expand public access, CVNP Superintendent Lisa Petit said.

"It's exciting to be the first of its kind," Petit said, "but especially I think what ... is meaningful for us is to see the true, commonalities in the UK parks to what we face here in the United States with regard to funding, with regard to managing and balancing visitation, increasing access to people, while also protecting our resources.

Deputy Chairman of Dartmoor National Park Peter Harper began looking for collaboration two year ago, when he thought to look outside of Europe for options.

"I just saw the, the opportunities for us to look beyond our own borders and learn from other people," Harper said. "I'm hoping that into the future that will become the opportunity for both sides so we can learn from each other."

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Lisa Petit awards Dartmoor National Park CEO Kevin Bishop with a National Park Service arrowhead to signify the signing of a five-year Sister Park arrangement on Thursday, June 6, 2024.
Aaron Self
/
Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Lisa Petit awards Dartmoor National Park CEO Kevin Bishop with a National Park Service arrowhead to signify the signing of a five-year Sister Park arrangement on Thursday, June 6, 2024.

Dartmoor National Park, located in southwest England, is a 368 square-mile space for hiking, biking and kayaking, CEO Kevin Bishop said, and gets about 11 million visitors per year.

"It's also the largest area of what we would call wilderness land in southern England," he said. "It's a very open landscape dominated by what we call granite tors, so that's eroded granite and the hard core of the granite sticking out of the ground. For us, it's a really special place."

The British government has cut Dartmoor's funding by more than 40% which has pushed the park system to pivot toward philanthropic funding, Bishop said. But the partnership with CVNP will give them insight on the best way to do so.

"One of the areas we're keen to learn from Cuyahoga is the role of the Conservancyin the way in which they work in partnership to generate funds for the national park and help deliver a sort of common vision," he said. "We're in the process of setting something similar up in terms of a foundation for Dartmoor. So we have a lot to learn, and we hope we can persuade people around Dartmoor to be as generous as some of the people around Cuyahoga."

Cuyahoga Valley National Park hopes to use Dartmoor as a model for conservation and fostering stewardship within the surrounding community, Petit said.

"They really build that conservation ethic in all of the people around them. They've done a tremendous job in that way," she said. "We're learning a lot about techniques by which you do engage, with cities or communities around them."

During their visit, Harper, Bishop and other Dartmoor representatives were taken around Northeast Ohio to view CVNP projects and programming.

Dartmoor representatives lined up next to Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad conductor.
Aaron Self
/
Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Dartmoor National Park CEO Kevin Bishop, Dartmoor National Park Authority Member Sally Morgan, Dartmoor National Park Head Ranger Simon Lee and Dartmoor National Park Management Board Deputy Chairman Peter Harper with a Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad conductor on Thursday, June 6, 2024.

Bishop said he was most struck by the complex history of pollution the Cuyahoga River and ongoing efforts to remediate it.

"It's a real symbol of hope for future generations that might be in a bit despair of of climate change, etc.," he said. "Actually, Cuyahoga River and the Valley and the national park has been a a real symbol and beacon of hope and actually that people can make a difference, and turn things around and make it better for people and the environment."

Bishop says he looks forward to hosting CVNP representatives at Dartmoor in the fall.

After the five-year period, both park systems will have the opportunity to discuss a renewal. But, Petit said the collaboration will only just begin during that time.

"I really don't think we're going to ever, stop being Sister Parks," she said. "We'll just get started in the first five years and see where it takes us."

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Health, Science & Environment Ohio NewsCuyahoga Valley National Park
Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.