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Jennifer Hayes

The State’s dream to one day have a national park could soon come true now that it has the backing of renowned filmmaker and former Delaware resident Ken Burns.

Burns, creator of the 2009 documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” joined U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. John Carney and DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara in historic New Castle Thursday to emphasize Delaware’s need for a national park.

Delaware is the only state in the country that lacks a national park.

“We have been able to, as an expansive country, drink in our entire history, good and bad, and embrace it all,” Burns said. “We Americans are bound together not only in geography but in time by these places. It is so, so important that this state, where it all began, has sites that reflect our extraordinarily old -among the oldest- histories of settlement on this continent and that we unite with all the other states in celebrating that.”

In February, the Delaware Congressional Delegation introduced legislation that would authorize the creation of a national park in the state. Unlike national parks in other areas, the First State National Historical Park would include sites and attractions in each of Delaware’s three counties, highlighting American Dutch, Swedish and English settlements.

Sen. Carper, who has been a proponent of Delaware’s national park for years, said the first state to sign the Constitution should not be the only state without a national park.

“Visitors to Delaware should be able to return to their homes with fond, lasting memories of their national park experience here,” Carper said, “memories of how our small state helped launch the most enduring experiment in democracy that the world has ever known —the United States of America.”

Carper didn’t forget to mention the economic impact the park would have on Delaware’s economy.

“People go to national parks all over the county. They go to learn, to have fun, they go to be together with their loved ones,” he said. “A lot of times they stay. A lot of times they go out to eat food, they go out and shop. We did. We ended up leaving with less money than we got there with, and we stimulated the economy of those places.”

Carper said the piece of legislation, the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011, still needs to pass the Senate and would then need to go through the House of Representatives. Once it passes both, it will be sent to the president for his signature.

Burns, who grew up near Newark and who created other award-winning documentaries, such as “Civil War,” “Baseball,” “The War” and “The Statue of Liberty,” said the experience and memories that take place at a national park are like nothing else.

“It matters very much whose hand you’re holding, whether it’s at the Grand Canyon or here in this remarkable state,” he said. “Who we experienced these memories and this history with binds us together, and you begin to see the collective healing power of the national parks.”

Burns said he has plans to come back to Delaware and will continue to support this initiative.

“I would like to pledge to you my efforts and my energies to do whatever I can Senator and Congressman to make it happen ... as you do the tough battles to get up over that hill.”