Statements and Speeches
WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a long time advocate of a national park for the State of Delaware, testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on National Parks on S.323, the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011. For more information or to watch a webcast of the hearing, please click here. A copy of Sen. Carper's testimony, as prepared for delivery, follows:
"Mr. Chairman, let me begin this afternoon by thanking you and Senator Burr for holding this hearing today. I particularly want to thank you for allowing me to appear before you to discuss S.323, the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011.
"Almost exactly a year ago, we were here discussing an earlier version of this legislation. I've tried to be as responsive as possible to this Committee in addressing any concerns with the language – and will continue to do so to ensure quick passage. I would like to begin by quickly reminding you how we got here today.
"If adopted, S.323 would establish the first national park in the state of Delaware, the only state in the Union without a national park. As you may remember, the first state to ratify the Constitution, the first state in the Union, the first state in which the Swedes and Dutch came ashore in what was to become America – remains the only state left out of our national park system. For almost a decade, hundreds of Delawareans and the National Park Service have joined me in working to change that.
"When I first came to the Senate, I knew Delaware had a rich history – a history that had yet to be told in any of our national parks. However, I was unsure what a national park in Delaware would look like. That is why in 2002, I tasked a commission composed of Delaware state officials, community leaders and citizen activists to work together on a draft proposal for a park that could be embraced by the people of Delaware. That proposal was finalized in 2004.
"Thanks in part to the work of this commission, in 2006 Congress authorized a National Park Service resources study to examine the need for a national park in Delaware. The National Park Service used the commission's proposal as the starting point for their study. In January 2009, the National Park Service finalized its study and agreed that – at long last – a National park should be created in Delaware.
"Using a majority of suggestions from the National Park Service, the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011 authorizes a national park in Delaware. We have made some changes from last year's legislation to reflect input from the 2010 legislative hearing, Committee staff, the National Park Service and our stakeholders back home. However, the theme and the story of the proposed national park is still the same as last year.
"The First State National Historical Park will celebrate early American Dutch, Swedish and English Settlements located throughout Delaware, and Delaware's role in the events leading up to the signing of our Constitution. The Delaware national park will include sites and attractions in each of Delaware's three counties.
"We expect the park's central headquarters to be located along the Delaware River in the historic Town of New Castle, just a stone's throw from a statue of William Penn who deeded the land to the inhabitants of the town of New Castle in 1701. Beyond the national park boundaries, the legislation also allows the National Park Service to work with other historically significant sites in Delaware related to the scope, to be used in materials, tours and other related items to help tell the national park's story.
"The First State National Historical Park will tell the story of the birth of our nation in a unique way not found in any other national park. Not only will the Delaware national park tell an important story, but it will tell the story at a low cost to the taxpayer. The National Park Service has estimated it will be one of the most inexpensive national parks in our national park system.
"I believe national parks are an invaluable resource for understanding our nation's historic and cultural heritage, as well as our natural environment. Every year, millions of Americans plan their vacations around our nation's national park system to learn about our nation's great history and see our great treasures. I still remember fondly my own family's trips to Denali National Park in Alaska, to the Grand Canyon, to Yellowstone and to several national parks in Illinois that celebrated the life of Abraham Lincoln.
"As many of you know, millions of national park visitors mean millions of tourism dollars. Every Member on this Committee – except for my Delaware colleague Senator Coons – represents a state that saw over $1 million in economic benefits from national park tourism in 2009.
"According to the National Park Service, Chairman Udall, your state enjoyed over $300 million in economic benefits from tourists visiting your 13 national parks – in 2009 alone. Ranking Member Burr, your state did a little better in 2009, enjoying over $700 million in economic benefit from national park tourism. In 2009, Delaware saw $0 in 2009 from national park tourism.
"Right now, families are planning their summer vacations. When they log onto the National Park Service web site and search state by state for ideas – the search in Delaware will turn up empty. I hope you will help me change that fact.
"In closing, Delaware may be small, but our little state was crucial to the birth of this great nation and we deserve the right to tell our story. I hope in the near future, visitors far and wide will come to Delaware to hear our story in our national park. Many visitors will end up returning to their own homes with lasting memories – fond memories – of the "Small Wonder." Memories of how our small state helped launch the most enduring experiment in democracy the world has ever known – the United States of America."