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Split over size of National Park at Monroe
By David Macaulay, firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-7838
HAMPTON — The Fort Monroe Authority will continue to work toward establishing a national park to the historic site, despite a split on how extensive a park should be.
A task force set up by the authority is backing a limited national park presence in the fort and part of the historic area in line with a recommendation by the National Park Service.
But the case for a "substantial" national park was made at Thursday's Fort Monroe Authority board meeting by a citizens group that has collected 7,000 signatures in favor of this and other safeguards at the historic post. Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward, who is on the authority's board, also backs a larger national park.
David Dutton of the planning company Dutton + Associates, a member of the authority's National Park Service Task Force, said the park service is most interested in four historic buildings and the Parade Ground.
"They also asked for donated services to these particular resources. They wanted water, sewer electricity — all costs associated with managing and up keeping these facilities — they wanted to be donated," he said.
He said the National Park Service has asked for control of those buildings and easements in the fort area. The task force recommends the commonwealth maintains ownership of the buildings.
In September, a team from the park service concluded Fort Monroe is likely to meet the criteria for a national park, but the primary area of interest is inside the moat and the historic fortress rather than the natural parts of Fort Monroe, according to a letter to U.S. Sen. Jim Webb from Dennis R. Reidenbach, regional director of the northeast region of the National Park Service.
"The natural resources are not of national significance," he wrote.
Dutton said the park service wants to ensure development adjacent to a national park would be compatible.
The task force is recommending that the National Park Service would be responsible for the costs of buildings under its control.
Dutton said the task force has considered a proposal by one of its members, Mark Perreault of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, to expand the area of interest to include about 195 acres of the undeveloped natural part of Fort Monroe to the north.
The task force voted to stay with the park service's original recommended area, said Dutton.
Terrie Suit, chairwoman of the authority's board, referred to a recent meeting with park service staff. She said it was an "extraordinarily long process" to get the National Park Service to take on a new national park. "It's not a slam dunk thing to get it passed," she said. Suit said it was probably a "four, five year, if not longer process."
She suggested pursuing a larger park could put off park service officials. The board decided Thursday to progress with the park service's idea but put off a decision on the size of a potential national park.
Steven Corneliussen of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park told the board said it was "factually wrong" for the park service to say the natural resources were of "no national significance."
"This is a national historic landmark," he said.
Sam Martin, chairman of the committee for petitioners calling for a referendum on Fort Monroe, said the petition called for a "truly substantial national park" at Fort Monroe.
"We believe the National Park Service's report was very conservative," he said.
Mayor Ward said the city of Hampton is committed to attracting a National Park Service unit at Fort Monroe. "I would like to see us expand what we are expecting from the National Park Service in the primary area of interest."
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