Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor in support of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

In his speech, Senator Carper spoke about the importance of the LWCF in developing national and state parks, which preserve our nation’s history and help bring people together to move our nation forward. And while millions of Americans have come together to protest the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed Black Americans, Senator Carper spoke about the role of those parks in national movements.

 

“Our national and state parks have always been places that bring people from all backgrounds together,” Senator Carper said. “Our national historic sites and monuments commemorate the events that have forged and tested us as a nation, as well as the sacrifices that we have made in our quest to become a more perfect union. They are also places from which our people have asked their government for change and for equality. Yes, our national parks have served as places of protest, protected under the Constitution that Delaware was the first state to ratify.”


“Today, and nearly every day, people are gathered in Lafayette Square in front of the White House, calling for action as we debate the bill before us. But in January and February of 1917, women staged two months of protests out of a row house located on Lafayette Square in the pursuit of women’s suffrage – the right to vote, one of our most sacred privileges,” 
Senator Carper continued. “Other national park sites in Washington have been front and center of the calls for racial justice in the last several days: the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and one of our newer national historic sites, the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King – who taught our country about the power of peaceful protests.

 

“Mr. President, these places inspire us. They allow our voices to be heard. But they also give us strength, solace, and the opportunity to heal. The bill before us today helps us to ensure that our public lands remain places where we can remember, reflect and recharge.”


In his speech, Senator Carper also highlighted the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Delaware.

“…the Land and Water Conservation Fund has enabled the purchase and development of many additional state parks that are crown jewels in all three counties of the First State – White Clay Creek, Cape Henlopen, Fox Point, Bellevue, Killens Pond, and more,” Senator Carper said. “For us in Delaware, these spaces are places of community. People from all walks of life come to these parks for many reasons – to fish, bike, hike, play sports, fly kites, swim, bird, learn, picnic, and enjoy concerts among them. Some of these parks might exist without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but, without it, they would not be the community cornerstones that they are today.”

 

Below is Senator Carper’s floor speech, as prepared for delivery.


“Mr. President, the bill before us today – the Great American Outdoors Act – is landmark legislation that would fulfill a longstanding promise to the American people to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This measure will also make a down payment on deferred maintenance of our nation’s beloved public lands, including our national wildlife refuges that are under the jurisdiction of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on which I serve as Ranking Member.

 

“While I am proud to support the Great American Outdoors Act, we would be remiss if we did not put the Senate’s consideration of this legislation in the context of everything else happening in our country right now.

 

“As we have learned in the 15 days since the death of George Floyd, we also have other longstanding promises to fulfill: The promise of an end to racial violence in this country and a new beginning in the pursuit of justice. The promise of equality. The promise of a more perfect union. And the promise of a dream articulated nearly 57 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

 

“Our national and state parks have always been places that bring people from all backgrounds together. Our national historic sites and monuments commemorate the events that have forged and tested us as a nation, as well as the sacrifices that we have made in our quest to become a more perfect union.

 

“They are also places from which our people have asked their government for change and for equality. Yes, our national parks have served as places of protest, protected under the Constitution that Delaware was the first state to ratify on December 7, 1787. In fact, Delaware’s national park, one of the newest in the nation, was created in large part to celebrate that history.

 

“The recent murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville have sparked widespread civil unrest. From coast to coast, millions of Americans have come together to protest the deaths of unarmed Black Americans and to call for change, justice and racial equality. In Washington, D.C., some of those demonstrations have taken place in our National Park System.

 

“Lafayette Square, the site of gassing and the troubling use of crowd dispersion devices last week in response to a peaceful demonstration, has seen its share of protests and turmoil. In its history, before the marble monuments it now contains, the Square served as a slave market, and it housed troops during the War of 1812 when the White House and U.S. Capitol were burned.

 

“Today, and nearly every day, people are gathered in Lafayette Square in front of the White House, calling for action as we debate the bill before us. But in January and February of 1917, women staged two months of protests out of a row house located on Lafayette Square in the pursuit of women’s suffrage – the right to vote, one of our most sacred privileges.

 

“Other national park sites in Washington have been front and center of the calls for racial justice in the last several days: the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and one of our newer national historic sites, the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King – who taught our country about the power of peaceful protests.

 

“Mr. President, these places inspire us. They allow our voices to be heard. But they also give us strength, solace, and the opportunity to heal. The bill before us today helps us to ensure that our public lands remain places where we can remember, reflect and recharge.

 

“Sometimes when I speak on the Senate floor, I share anecdotes from my morning runs. A number of them over the years have been on the National Mall as I run from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and, then, past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial etched with the names of over 58,000 men and women with whom I served in Southeast Asia.

 

“No matter how tired I might be on the morning when I begin those runs, as I pass and pause at each of these places, I feel inspired, rejuvenated, and more determined than ever to take up our work in service to the American people.

 

“Interestingly, I have heard a similar sentiment from the hundreds of Delawareans who have asked me to support the legislation before us today. Many of our parks provide visitors a place to reflect, to reconnect and to enjoy the beauties of nature. That is in no small part because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

 

“Many of my colleagues know that Delaware has a proud history as the ‘First State.’ The First State National Historical Park, which we worked for a decade to create, tells the story of the role Delaware played in the establishment of our country. Our Park is unique with historical sites in all three of Delaware’s counties that connect our communities, much like our state parks do.

 

“What you may not know is that the first land acquisition through the state side of the Land and Water Conservation Program occurred in Delaware. Brandywine Creek State Park, located north of Wilmington, Delaware, was established in 1965. At the time of this monumental acquisition, there was not much of a state park system in Delaware, and certainly not in New Castle County, our northernmost county.

 

“Since that time, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has enabled the purchase and development of many additional state parks that are crown jewels in all three counties of the First State – White Clay Creek, Cape Henlopen, Fox Point, Bellevue, Killens Pond, and more. For us in Delaware, these spaces are places of community. People from all walks of life come to these parks for many reasons – to fish, bike, hike, play sports, fly kites, swim, bird, learn, picnic, and enjoy concerts among them. Some of these parks might exist without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but, without it, they would not be the community cornerstones that they are today.

 

“When a park is revitalized, it can become the nerve center of a community and create new opportunities to bind us together. In many cases, we have seen that in our state. For example, Bellevue State Park – not far from my home – has been home to a community garden program for decades, providing a place for families like my own who may not have a lot of land on which to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

 

“In 2017, the City of Wilmington was awarded an LWCF grant to improve Father Tucker Park, which had been in disrepair for decades. The park is vital for play, cultural gatherings and sports activities and is now a valuable hub of that community. Further, LWCF enabled the first public pool in Kent County at the Killens Pond State Park. It’s now the Killens Pond Water Park, and it’s grown quite popular for residents from across Kent County and well beyond its borders.

“Mr. President, this legislation also helps to bring economic activity to our communities, something that people might not think of at first blush. In Delaware, the LWCF has enabled an incredible network of greenways and trails that connect community facilities and institutions with businesses. People come from all over the country come to ride, run and walk them. Basic investment in preservation of land and investment in paths and trails is a tangible community-building enterprise.

 

“You can get on your bicycle in downtown Wilmington and ride through the suburbs and to the Delaware River in Fox Point State Park. These paths are more than just bike trails. They are paths that expand horizons, connect people to each other and create common ground in our communities.

 

“The Delaware State Parks Youth Conservation Corps even provides jobs and environmental restoration opportunities throughout our parks for young people from all backgrounds.

 

“What’s more, our Delaware state parks offer free summer concerts. These concert series attract different genres and diverse audiences. While the 2020 summer concert series was cancelled unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Delaware state parks have remained open, and our state has waived entrance fees.

 

“As it became clear that physical isolation was key to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Delawareans – especially those in urban areas – sought solitude in our parks. For many, connecting with nature was critical for mental wellness and, now, making that connection has grown more popular than ever before. Brandywine Creek State Park is just one example. Located just a few miles from our border with Pennsylvania, it has seen record visitation this year.

 

“As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, I have heard from hundreds of constituents in support of the American Outdoors Act. Many of them have shared stories about their treasured moments in state and national parks, particularly during troubled times. I’d like to close my remarks today by sharing one of those stories from Kate Hackett, the Executive Director of Delaware Wild Lands.

 

“A year-and-a-half-ago, Kate, her family, and another family travelled to Big Bend National Park in Texas. This park is on the U.S.-Mexico border. These two families were distressed by what was happening along our border and wanted to visit border towns to experience their humanity themselves. As the two families hiked along the Rio Grande River, Kate’s friend sang her favorite lullaby in Spanish. Her song echoed in the canyon. When she paused, an unknown voice from across the border emerged with the next verse of the same song. These two strangers – divided by the great depths of a canyon – alternated verses, savoring a shared experience, regardless of borders, race or languages.

 

“I was moved to hear how Kate was able to use her family’s outdoor experience that day to teach her children a lesson in compassion, humanity and acceptance of all. As the soul of our nation continues to be tested, I hope the legislation before us today – the Great American Outdoors Act – might somehow provide similar opportunities for others. In fact, I challenge all of us to make sure that it does.

 

“And, most importantly, I also sincerely hope that we will soon fulfill at least two other longstanding promises – for equality and justice – that are critical for the future of this country and our democracy.

 

“Our public lands can be part of a greater, multi-faceted solution that brings equity and opportunity to all of our communities from sea to shining sea. In the midst of all of the turmoil we face in America today lies opportunity. It’s our job to find it and work together to move this country, which we love and revere, as imperfect as we are, forward.

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