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Should You 'Park' Yourself In a National Park?

Written by Posted On Monday, 23 November 2015 13:09

Are you so obsessed with the interior details of your "dream home" that you've overlooked how important a "dream location" is to real estate value and your enjoyment of property ownership?

If a natural setting is a vital element of your dream location, but you lack the finances or land-management skills to own significant rural acreage, the National Park System may offer a viable alternative. Does your idea of a perfect vacation include a trip to a National Park? If so, perhaps you should explore the possibility of living within a National Park.

"I'm fortunate to live where others want to visit," said Heather Aussant Roy, co-manager of Friends of Friends of Jasper National Park (FJNP) and 16-year resident of the Municipality of Jasper, a town of approximately 5,000 within this Canadian Rockies park. FJNP members "fulfill a vital role of independent stewards and advocates by providing opportunities for people to interact with and connect to our National Park."

Although residents and business owners within Canadian National Parks are not landowners, but enter into real estate lease arrangements with Parks Canada after meeting eligible residency requirements, the real estate situation is different in the US.

US National Parks, all managed by the National Parks Service (NPS), can include privately-owned real estate within their boundaries. Buy a home inside a National Park and you'll acquire the usual benefits of property ownership along with proximity to some of the most inspiring landscapes and fascinating wildlife populations in North America. Park ecosystems range from valleys and plains to mountains and forests. The National Park Service safeguards selected ecosystems in every corner of the country.

According to email communication with NPS spokesperson Kathy Kupper, "Pretty much every park unit in the [NPS] system has private property within the boundary. Most units look like a checkerboard with both public and private lands. For lands that the government does not own, local zoning applies. In any park boundary established by legislation, there is government-owned property and fee-owned or privately-owned property. The National Park Service does not track or monitor those private properties and they can be bought and sold by the owners. Those interested in acquiring privately-owned land inside of park boundaries should contact a local Realtor."

The US National Park Service is not in the real estate business. Privately-held land within a Park is sold directly by its owners or through a real estate brokerage. Owners have the same rights of ownership as residents anywhere and can bequeath their property, sell it or even gift it as they wish. Renovation and construction is subject to local bylaws.

Kupper explained that the National Park Service does not sell or make available for sale, publicly-owned Park land: "If we ever did have excess property, which is very seldom, we would go through the General Services Administration (GSA) disposal process and they would put the property up for public auction. Legislation is required for the National Park Service to alienate park property."

Park Living   

To start you on your Park search for a dream location, here are a few thoughts to consider:

Passion for Parks

If you are a committed environmentalist and relish the idea of making contributions to a National Park and its community by adopting stewardship attitudes towards the lands and wildlife, a National Park may be your dream location. This challenging lifestyle is not like rolling into an RV park or buying into a vacation ownership complex. You'll be part of a dynamic ecosystem while being exposed to the flood of campers and day visitors that come to share the wilderness experience.

Investigate the Fit

Park Supervisors oversee every aspect of their assigned Park and develop relationships relevant to their Park with those residing within the boundaries. Discover all you can about the Park's management vision and plans. How will your goals and interests help you fit in? Each Park is a unique environment and may hold a different future for you.

Assume Nothing

Visit several Parks which hold special interest for you, so that you have a complete picture of how those ecosystems function throughout the seasons. Also explore a variety of other Park types to be sure you investigate all your options. The range of parks that include private land holdings is amazing. For instance, compare images of Arizona's Saguaro National Park and those for history-rich Fredericksburg National Military Park in Virginia and you'll be inspired to explore further. Climate change and other environmental impacts should be considered before you start looking at specific real estate listings.

Residency Realities

To ensure year-round residency is right for you, try renting in the off-season before you plunge in. Local real estate professionals should be valuable resources during decision making and will know what special legalities and relevant real estate issues you must consider. Residency within a Park usually entitles residents to complimentary park passes, but what compromises would you have to make as a resident? Ask a lot of questions. For instance, in the aforementioned Jasper National Park example, eligible residency requirements don't seem to restrict residency by nationality. Instead, employment or business ownership within the Park is the prime criterion.

Eye Opener

Living in a National Park is not for everyone. This column is not intended to convince readers to adopt this lifestyle, nor to trivialize the decision to live in a unique environment. As a futurist, I continually present concepts and perspectives designed to open your eyes to new possibilities for your real estate and your future. Build on these ideas; extrapolate from these suggestions.

Enjoy your National Park research into your dream location. Explore information and ideas available from NPS since, as its site says, "The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage."

Last Comment Call

In our previous column, "Strategies for Facing Real Estate Problems Head On," posted November 9th, readers were asked, "How do you think John and Alice should resolve this problem?" Your responses will complete this story. Please comment under the article or email your comment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with subject line "RT distraction solution."

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