House to Hold Hearing on Carper’s Park Proposal on Thursday

Carper, Castle to Testify on Bill Authorizing National Park Service to Study Feasibility of Coastal Heritage Park in the First State

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2006) – A House subcommittee on Thursday will hold a hearing on Sen. Tom Carper’s legislation to require the National Park Service to study the need for a national park unit in Delaware. The hearing is being held by the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. Carper’s legislation passed the Senate unanimously in November. Thursday’s hearing is the first step toward moving the bill through the House. Carper, Congressman Mike Castle, a cosponsor of the parks legislation, and Tim Slavin, director of Historical and Cultural Affairs for the State of Delaware, will testify at the hearing on Thursday. House committee action on the bill has not been scheduled at this time. “Every year, millions of Americans plan their vacations around our national park system, but when they go to the Park Service website, nothing comes up for Delaware. A national park here will put Delaware on the map and make the state a more attractive place to visit,” said Carper. “Thursday’s hearing is an important first step in getting our bill through the House. Hopefully, we can move the bill quickly and see it signed into law sometime soon.” “For a long time, Delawareans have been pushing for a National Park in our state, and therefore, I am excited that the House is finally holding a hearing on this issue,” said Castle. “Senator Carper’s idea is unique and would certainly put Delaware on the map, and it would work hand in hand with the recreation area I have been working on along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.” Currently, Delaware is the only state without a unit in the National Park Service. In 2003, after nearly two years of research and planning that involved state officials, community leaders and activists, Carper unveiled a proposal to create the Delaware National Coastal Heritage Park, which would link various historic and recreational sites across the state that highlight Delaware’s coastal history and culture. Before a national park can be built in Delaware, however, the National Park Service must first study the need for and feasibility of building and running such a park. The legislation [S. 1627] Carper has introduced — and will be the focal point of the hearing Thursday — would simply ask the National Park Service to study his national park proposal. The study would be done in cooperation with the state of Delaware, coastal communities and the general public. After the study is completed, the Park Service would then recommend to Congress whether a national park in Delaware should be created, what it should look like and how much it would cost to construct. Based on those recommendations, Carper would then seek legislation to authorize and fund the park itself. Background on Coastal Heritage Park Proposal 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. 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, home of Fort Christina. 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 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.