Delaware’s Congressional Delegation Celebrates Inclusion of Del. National Park as part of President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

WASHINGTON – Today, Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Rep. John Carney (all D-Del.) celebrated the announcement that the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011 will be included as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The First State National Historical Park Act, as well as the Delaware National Bayshore proposal, are among 100 projects nationwide – two in every state – that will be highlighted in as part of the president’s effort to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar highlighted the two projects after a series of meetings with Governor Jack Markell, community leaders and other stakeholders in Delaware to generate ideas on how to best implement the president’s initiative in the First State. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities.

“Today, my friend Sec. Ken Salazar highlighted what those of us in the First State already know – that Delaware’s rich history and environmental beauty tells an important story that should be told on a national stage,” said Senator Carper. “By including our proposal for a national park in Delaware in the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, Sec. Salazar and the President are helping to move our state another step closer toward the reality of a national park that preserves and teaches the lessons of our state’s heritage. For almost a decade, I have been working with federal officials, state officials, community leaders and activists to establish a national park in Delaware. I thank Governor Markell and his team, and the numerous other community leaders in Delaware for their support and efforts during this process, and I look forward to working with Sec. Salazar and my Congressional colleagues to make the First State Historical National Park and the Delaware National Bayshore a reality.”

“Delaware is blessed with abundant, diverse recreation opportunities that have been a source of great pride for our state,” Senator Coons said. “The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative will highlight two important projects that will grow local economies, provide new recreation activities, and protect important historical sites and natural resources in Delaware. I applaud Governor Markell, Secretary O’Mara, and Senator Carper for their effort in working with the Administration to draw attention to these projects, and I will continue to work with them to push for the establishment of the First State National Historical Park and the Delaware National Bayshore, as well as other important recreation projects in the state, including the C&D Canal recreational trail.”

“I applaud Secretary Salazar for recognizing the importance of creating a national park in Delaware and preserving our state’s beautiful bayshore area,” said Congressman Carney. “These initiatives showcase the incredible history and abundant natural habitat that make our state so special. I will continue working with Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration to make sure these projects are completed for Delawareans and visitors to our state to enjoy.”

“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Delaware and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Sec. Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”

The two projects in Delaware highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:

First State National Historical Park

Delaware was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution and is now the only state with no national-park area. Designating a national-park area would boost tourism and provide urban outdoor-recreation opportunities to residents and visitors. The purpose of the park would be to preserve and interpret resources associated with early Dutch, Swedish, and English settlements, as well as Delaware’s role in the birth of the nation.

The concept of the park connects four interpretative centers linked to sites across the state to tell a comprehensive story of Delaware’s coastal heritage. In cooperation with state agencies and local governments, the National Park Service would manage the centers and provide interpretation staff at various attractions. Under this “hub-and-spoke” concept, park boundaries would be drawn loosely to include as many sites as possible that are representative of the themes.

The First State National Historic Park Act was introduced in 2009 and awaits congressional approval. It is supported by the state of Delaware.

Delaware National Bayshore

The Delaware Bayshore is a widely recognized area of global ecological significance. Extensive coastal marshes, beaches, and agricultural lands annually support more than a half-million shorebirds during both spring and fall migration. This makes the Bayshore one of the best birding and hunting areas on the East Coast. More than half of the Bayshore region is protected as refuges, wildlife areas, agriculture preserves, parks, and cultural-heritage sites.

The state seeks Interior’s assistance to conserve, restore, and provide access to the Bayshore by leveraging federal, state, and private resources. Coordinated landscape-scale conservation among federal, state, and local agencies, private conservation organizations, private landowners, and local communities would ensure protection of diverse natural habitat and improve recreational opportunities for 30 million Americans who live within a three-hour drive of the Bayshore.

Delaware would also like to partner with Interior to evaluate the potential for designating its eastern shore as America’s first “national bayshore.”

This project aligns with many AGO objectives: landscape-scale conservation, enhancement of vital habitat, restoration of waterways, connection of local communities to the outdoors, and recreation.

The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Delaware, for example, the Department support congressional approval of First State National Historical Park and collaborate with Delaware to conserve and restore the Delaware Bayshore and to enhance recreation. The Department could also evaluate the possibility of designating the area as the first national bayshore. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.