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National park status requested for Fort Monroe
By Patrick Wilson
Virginia's U.S. senators are asking the National Park Service to write legislation that would make Fort Monroe a national park.
Mark Warner and Jim Webb have sent a letter to park service Director Jonathan Jarvis expressing "strong interest in the Fort Monroe site." The Army will vacate the waterfront post in Hampton in September, shifting control of the fort and 170 buildings to the state as part of a 2005 base closing decision. A number of citizens and government officials want the park service to take the site, already a National Historic Landmark District.
Terry Moore, chief of planning and special studies for the park service in the Northeast, told Fort Monroe Authority members on Thursday that his agency will respond with a draft bill. Whether Fort Monroe or part of it becomes a national park is up to Congress, he said.
The Fort Monroe Authority is headed by 11 trustees helping oversee the transition of the base out of Army hands.
Terrie Suit, the chairwoman, asked Moore how long it would take for a national park to be established should Congress pass a law. A National Park Service presence would start immediately, but it would take at least two years for an operational park, Moore said.
Supporters of a park say it would protect the fort and bring the valuable interpretation of history provided by the park service.
Even if a plan moves forward in Congress, the boundary of a park would be in question. Should it include the entire property, including the beach, or just the fort and the most historic buildings?
"We have lots of parks that we don't own everything in," Moore said. "The resources have to be of national significance."
The senators asked the park service to write a bill based on comments in a Sept. 20 letter to Webb from Dennis R. R eidenbach, Northeast regional director for the park service.
The letter said a park service study concluded that Fort Monroe's resources are of national interest significant enough to become a park; the park service identified a specific area that includes the fort and several buildings. The fort was built between 1819 and 1834 and was used by the Union army during the Civil War.
Patrick Wilson, (757) 222-3893, email@example.com