Four years ago this month, Dr. Paul Kovalski completed a 30-year journey to visit all the national parks. The dentist from Marlboro, New Jersey saved for last a park in his home state — Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. It was his 413th different national park.
The National Park Service keeps adding parks, however, and Kovalski keeps traveling.
On Thursday, December 17, he visited Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, the second-newest unit in the National Park Service system — No. 422. (The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument was established as the 423rd unit on December 10.)
Kovalski, who also volunteers many hours per year at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, brought to Ste.Genevieve some items from that park as well as other national parks he has visited. While he rates Glacier National Park as tops on his list, he thought the story of St. Croix Island, founded in 1604 as one of the first settlements of New France, would be of interest to Ste. Genevieve history buffs.
While in Ste. Genevieve, Kovalski toured the Guibourd-Valle House operated by the Foundation for Restoration. He also visited the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center; the National Park Service headquarters at the Jean-Baptiste Valle House; and the Green Tree Tavern, which is owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources but has been legislatively approved for transfer to the National Park Service.
Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park was established on October 30, 2020. It includes the Jean-Baptiste Valle House on South Main Street and the Bauvais-Amoureux House on St. Mary’s Road. The National Park Service is working with the city of Ste. Genevieve to jointly operate the Welcome Center, which also has been approved for transfer to the National Park Service.
Since establishment, the park has attracted visitors interested in having their National Park Service passport books stamped. Also among the visitors so far is David Kroese, an author who chronicled his visits to all the national parks in his book, The Centennial: A Journey through America’s National Parks System.