Statements and Speeches

Hearing Statement: "First State National Historical Park Act of 2011 (S. 323)"

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

Jun 28 2012

WASHINGTON - Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, testified at the U.S. House Subcommittee On National Parks, Forests And Public Lands hearing, "First State National Historical Park Act of 2011 (S. 323)." For more information or to view a webcast of the hearing, click here.

A copy of his statement as prepared for delivery is below:

Mr. Chairman, let me begin by thanking you and the Ranking Member for holding this hearing and allowing me to appear before you to discuss H.R. 624, the companion bill to S. 323, the First State National Historical Park Act of 2011.

The Senate bill has been voice voted out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I hope this Committee will quickly do the same. If adopted this legislation would establish the first national park in the state of Delaware, the only state in the Union without one.

From Olympic National Park to Boston National Historical Park, national parks across 49 states tell an important story of our nation's history and culture. Every year, millions of Americans and visitors from other countries plan their vacations around our nation's national park system.

As a result, these parks provide valuable economic tourism dollars – Utah alone saw over $600 million from tourist dollars from their national parks in 2010. Michigan saw over $140 million. Delaware saw $0.

That's right. The first state to ratify the Constitution, the first state in the Union, the first state in which Swedes and Finns came ashore in what was to become America, and the place where the Dutch built an ill-fated settlement over 400 years ago – Delaware – remains the only state to have no national park.

Delaware may be small, but our little state was crucial to the birth of this great nation. Unfortunately, our state's unique story is not being told. The First State National Historical Park Act of 2011 would create a park celebrating 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.

This theme builds on efforts ongoing in my state for over a decade. 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 – Delaware should have a national park. We took a majority of the suggestions by the Park Service and put them in the legislation you see today.

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.

We've also ensured that the federal footprint of this park will be small and given owners of the seven listed sites numerous options to be part of the park. Our legislation allows an owner of a site to reject an offer from the Park Service if they cannot come to an agreement with the Park Service that meets their needs.

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.

I hope many visitors will end up returning to their own homes with lasting memories of how our small state helped launch the most enduring experiment in democracy the world has ever known – the United States of America.