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WASHINGTON -- A key Senate committee approved legislation Thursday to authorize creation of a national park in Delaware, the only state without one.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper and co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons, both Democrats, would create a park celebrating early American Dutch, Swedish and English settlements throughout Delaware, as well as Delaware's role as the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1787.

The park would include sites and attractions in each of Delaware's three counties.

Rep. John Carney, D-Del., is sponsor of a companion bill in the House.

Carper has pushed for a national park in Delaware for nearly a decade. Thursday's voice vote in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is the most progress his bill has ever made.

The next step is a Senate floor vote, although none has been scheduled. The bill could have a difficult time passing Congress. Republicans are reluctant to create any new national parks.

"I cannot wait for the day when families all across this country and the world will plan their vacations around the Delaware National Park, to learn how the First State helped launch the most enduring experiment in democracy that the world has ever known -- the United States of America," Carper said.

The bill was one of 27 the committee approved by voice vote Thursday. One of the other measures would designate additional segments and tributaries of White Clay Creek in Delaware and Pennsylvania as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems.

The committee also approved legislation to create two national historical parks -- one in New York and one in Maryland -- to honor abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the most famous "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. The National Historical Park in Maryland would trace her early life on the Eastern Shore.

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