Carper Announces National Park Proposal to Celebrate Coastal Heritage

Innovative Plan Would Link Historic Sites Across Delaware

WILMINGTON (August 30, 2004) – Claiming a national park would boost tourism in the state and enrich Delaware’s sense of history and community, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today unveiled an innovative and creative proposal to establish the Delaware National Coastal Heritage Park. Currently, Delaware is the only state without a unit of the National Park Service. But after nearly two years of research and planning that involved state officials, community leaders and activists, Carper is recommending the creation of a national park that encompasses various historic and recreational sites highlighting Delaware’s special coastal heritage. “Delaware has many historic places for people to explore and enjoy, but what’s lacking is a cohesive structure and theme to our various places of interest,” said Carper. “Establishing a national park to celebrate our coastal heritage would help make Delawareans and out of state visitors more aware of our unique history, as well as provide a significant boost to tourism and our state’s economy.” When Congress returns in September, Carper plans to introduce legislation that would authorize the National Park Service to conduct a formal study of the proposal. The study, which would be done in cooperation with the state of Delaware, the coastal communities, and the general public, would more fully explore the proposal’s concept and direction. The Park Service would then recommend to Congress whether a national park in Delaware should be created and how much it would cost to construct. Based on those recommendations, Carper would then seek legislation to authorize and fund the park itself. From beginning to end, the process to establish the national park could take several years. But Carper said the end result could reap substantial benefits for the state. “Every year, millions of Americans plan their vacations around our national park system,” Carper said. “They log onto the Park Service website and search for ideas for their family vacations. Right now, that search will turn up nothing in Delaware. With a national park here in Delaware, that will change. A national park would put Delaware on the map, and make the state a more attractive place to visit.” –MORE– Concept Unlike other national parks, such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, Carper’s proposal would not set aside a giant land area for preservation or recreational purposes. Instead, the proposal would create a national park unique both in its physical dimensions and overall theme. The park would link various sites across the state that tell the story of the state’s coastal heritage, from the days of the area’s earliest inhabitants to the bustling financial, tourism and recreational area Delaware has become. Among the themes the park will highlight: the history of indigenous peoples, colonization and establishment of the Frontier, the nation’s founding, industrial development, transportation, coastal defense, the Underground Railroad, and the coastal environment. Proposal The proposal calls on the National Park Service to construct a series of four interpretive centers, or hubs, that would help local residents and tourists learn more about how our coastline has contributed to the development of our state and nation. The centers would provide information and guidance about the many existing historic sites, natural areas, recreational opportunities and other attractions that are part of our coastal region. Under the proposal, the “gateway” hub would be located at the Rocks in Wilmington, site of the Fort Christina monument. The proposal calls on the National Park Service to examine the possibility of constructing a formal visitors center, a park headquarters and perhaps a re-creation of the original Fort Christina. Others hubs, to be determined, would be located in southern New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties – all at locations along the coastline. For the most part, the National Park Service would not purchase or manage any of the various historic sites or other attractions. Rather, the Park Service would form partnerships with current owners and help provide information, direction and guidance to visitors who want to travel to these attractions. An exception to this might be the 7th Street Peninsula where the area around The Rocks and the Fort Christina Monument might be developed as a destination point in its own right including the park headquarters and visitors center. Possible attractions in each county include: New Castle: The Fort Christina hub would be within walking distance of various historic sites, including the Old Swedes Church, the oldest Episcopal Church in America still in use; the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the ship that carried early Swedes to our shores; and the Tubman-Garrett Park, located at a point in Wilmington where escaping slaves crossed the Christina River as part of their journey on the Underground Railroad. A second hub would –MORE– likely be located along the Delaware River in southern New Castle County and would highlight other attractions, including the city of New Castle’s renowned Landmark historic district, as well as Fort Delaware State Park on Pea Patch Island and Fort DuPont near Delaware City. Kent County: The Kent County hub would likely be located along the cost of the Delaware Bay and provide information on existing preservation areas, such as Bombay Hook, as well as the John Dickinson Plantation, the Octagonal School Museum, and the fishing villages of Leipsic, Little Creek and Bowers Beach, and Barratt’s Chapel. Sussex County: A Sussex hub would be located in the Lewes area and provide information on numerous historic sites and natural areas that have made the area’s coastal region so pivotal to Delaware. These would include the Zwaanendael Museum, the National Harbor of Refuge, Fort Miles (Cape Henlopen State Park), the Indian River Lifesaving Station, the Nanticoke Indian Museum, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, the Lightship Overfalls, the Harbor of Refuge Light, and the Breakwater Light. Background Senator Carper first began the process of trying to establish a national park in 2003 through surveys, web polls and phone calls. Carper received hundreds of responses and suggestions for possible Park sites, ranging from Fort DuPont to Cape Henlopen State Park to the Underground Railroad to the World War II Towers. After several months of hearing from the public at large, Carper established a National Parks Committee in fall 2003. The committee was comprised of twelve people, including Dr. James Soles, the head of the committee, Dr. Wilma Mishoe, Ms. Norma Lee Derrickson, the Honorable John Schroeder, Mr. O. Francis Biondi, Mr. Ernst Dannemann, Dr. Linda Johnson-Gilliam, Ms. M. Jane Richter, Ms. Maria Matos, Mr. Ruly Carpenter, Mr. Bill Powers and Mr. Edwin Mongan III. For several months, the members met and discussed extensively each of the suggestions offered by the public. They held workshops in each county, where the public could attend, participate, and offer suggestions. The committee members then took a tour of the proposed sites to determine which location would make the best national park. After months of deliberation, the committee came to its final recommendation: the creation of “The Delaware National Coastal Heritage Park.” This National Park would memorialize the rich and diverse history of Delaware’s coastal areas, bringing that history and related attractions into sharp focus for area residents and visitors alike.