Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON - Today Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) delivered the following testimony in front of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks on the First State National Historical Park Act (S. 1801), which authorizes a national park in Delaware: 


"Let me begin this morning, Mr. Chairman, by thanking you and Senator Burr for holding this hearing on S. 1801, the First State National Historical Park Act.  I particularly want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for cosponsoring this legislation and for allowing me to appear before you today to discuss it with you. 


"As you know, this legislation, if adopted, would establish the first national park in the State of Delaware, the only state in the Union which is home to neither a national park or even to a unit of the national park system.


"Some of you may recall, the story of "America's Best Idea" - the National Park System - that was told last year to a national television audience by the renowned documentary film maker Ken Burns, who coincidentally grew up in Delaware as a youth. 


"Along with Ken Burns and many of the millions of people who viewed that documentary, I share the belief that national parks are, indeed, one of our nation's very best ideas. 


"National parks are an invaluable resource for understanding our nation's historic and cultural heritage, as well as its natural environment.  Every year, millions of Americans plan their vacations around our nation's national park system. 


"I remember fondly my own family's trip several summers ago to Denali National Park in Alaska.  And, our two sons will never forget their cross-country road trip along the northern route from Boston to San Francisco last summer, an adventure that took them to places like Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and Yosemite. 


"In planning our family's summer vacation several years ago, we logged onto the National Park Service web site and searched state by state for ideas.  When we came to our own state - Delaware - our search turned up empty.


"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. 


"For almost a decade, hundreds of Delawareans have joined me in working to change that.


"After four years of research and planning that involved Delaware state officials, community leaders and citizen activists, we unveiled a proposal for a Delaware National Park in 2004.


"In 2006, thanks in part to the work of this Committee, Congress authorized the National Park Service to study the need for a park in Delaware.  The National Park Service used our 2004 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 park should be created in Delaware.


"In its study, the National Park Service recommended a national park that celebrated Delaware's early Dutch, Swedish and English Settlements and the events leading up to the state's role in the founding of our nation. 


"This brings us to today's hearing and to the First State National Historical Park Act which I'm pleased to report has been cosponsored by each member of our state's tiny congressional delegation.


"The First State National Historical Park Act uses a majority of suggestions from the 2009 National Park Study to authorize a national park to be created within Delaware. 


"If approved, our state's national park will be comprised of sites associated with early settlement and with the people and events leading up to Delaware's role as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787. 


"The park will tell the story of the birth of our nation in a unique way not found in any other National Park.


"The park's central headquarters will 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.


"Once a national park unit is established in Delaware, families from throughout America - and all over the world - will have the opportunity to learn from the National Park Service's website of the rich, historical heritage of the First State.  And, who knows?  They just might decide to pay us a visit; much like my own family did when we chose to spend an unforgettable week or two visiting Denali and other parts of Alaska. 


"In closing, I would note that the word "Denali" translates loosely to mean "the Great One."  That enormous park is several times the size of my state. 


"While visitors to Delaware are not likely to remember us as "the Great One," they may well end up returning to their own homes with lasting memories - fond memories - of the "Small Wonder" along the Eastern Seaboard of our nation that helped to launch the most enduring experiment in democracy that the world has ever known - the United States of America."