Nov 17 2005
WASHINGTON (Nov. 17, 2005) – The Senate late Wednesday night unanimously approved Sen. Tom Carper’s legislation to require the National Park Service to study the need for a national park unit in Delaware. Currently, Delaware is the only state without a unit in the National Park Service. Last year, after nearly two years of research and planning that involved state officials, community leaders and activists, Carper unveiled a proposal to create the Delaware National Coastal Heritage Park, which would link various historic and recreational sites across the state that highlight Delaware’s coastal history and culture. Before a national park can be built in Delaware, however, the National Park Service must first study the need for and feasibility of building and running such a park. The legislation that passed the Senate on Wednesday would require the National Park Service to study Carper’s national park proposal and report back to Congress. The bill must now pass the House and be signed into law by President Bush. The study would be done in cooperation with the state of Delaware, coastal communities and the general public. After the study is completed, the Park Service would then recommend to Congress whether a national park in Delaware should be created, what it should look like and how much it would cost to construct. Based on those recommendations, Carper would then seek legislation to authorize and fund the park itself. “Today, we’re one step closer to authorizing the Park Service to study the possibility of creating a national park in Delaware,” said Carper. “Every year, millions of Americans plan their vacations around our national park system, but when they go to the Park Service website, nothing comes up for Delaware. A national park here will put Delaware on the map and make the state a more attractive place to visit." Background on Coastal Heritage Park Proposal Unlike other national parks, such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, Carper’s proposal would not set aside a giant land area for preservation or recreational purposes. Instead, the proposal would create a national park unique both in its physical dimensions and overall theme. The park would link various sites across the state that tell the story of the state’s coastal heritage, from the days of the area’s earliest inhabitants to the bustling financial, tourism and recreational area Delaware has become. Among the themes the park will highlight: the history of indigenous peoples, colonization and establishment of the Frontier, the nation’s founding, industrial development, transportation, coastal defense, the Underground Railroad, and the coastal environment. The proposal calls on the National Park Service to construct a series of four interpretive centers, or hubs, that would help local residents and tourists learn more about how our coastline has contributed to the development of our state and nation. The centers would provide information and guidance about the many existing historic sites, natural areas, recreational opportunities and other attractions that are part of our coastal region. Under the proposal, the “gateway” hub would be located at the Rocks in Wilmington, home of Fort Christina. The proposal calls on the National Park Service to examine the possibility of constructing a formal visitors center, a park headquarters and perhaps a re-creation of the original Fort Christina. Others hubs, to be determined, would be located in southern New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties – all locations along the coastline. For the most part, the National Park Service would not purchase or manage any of the various historic sites or other attractions. Rather, the Park Service would form partnerships with current owners and help provide information, direction and guidance to visitors who want to travel to these attractions.