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Park Service sees Fort Monroe as a major tourist attraction for the area
By David Macaulay 247-7838
11:19 p.m. EST, November 19, 2009
HAMPTON ó Congress will be asked to create a national park covering historic parts of Fort Monroe following a landmark vote by the body investigating the base's use after the Army moves out in 2011.
The board of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Agency (FMFADA) voted unanimously Thursday to make parts of the site a unit of the National Park Service by requesting that state leaders work with Congress to draft and pass legislation.
Under the resolution adopted Thursday, the state has the option to retain ownership of the land at Fort Monroe.
But the National Park Service would not run the entire 565-acre site. Partnerships would be formed with other agencies for the use of less historically important parts of Fort Monroe.
John Quarstein, chairman of the National Park Service Review Panel, announced the panel's findings at Thursday's meeting.
"We recognized very strongly that Fort Monroe provided something, not just for the city of Hampton or Hampton Roads or the commonwealth of Virginia, but for our nation, because of the tremendously significant activities that occurred here," he said.
"We wanted to make it very clear that the presence of the NPS allows the commonwealth of Virginia to retain ownership of the land," he said.
Quarstein said Fort Monroe offered an important tourism opportunity for Hampton Roads.
"The NPS offers a wide variety of resources," he said, adding that the park service has a long track record in running stone fortifications as visitor attractions.
The final boundaries of a national park will be studied later, but it would include features such as the old fort and batteries.
The Army would continue to run the Casemate Museum.
Quarstein said FMFADA will be working on partnerships with other groups for projects on Fort Monroe.
"It has been used in many ways by the U.S. Army, and the park is just one of the few components that will help us build a great tourism site," he said.
FMFADA Chairman L. Preston Bryant Jr. applauded the vote.
"Today, the board endorsed an expanded role for the National Park Service at Fort Monroe that also preserves the state's ownership of the property and adheres to Gov. Kaine's goals that we respect Fort Monroe's history, keep it open to the public, maintain open space, and make it as economically sustainable as possible," Bryant said.
"Economic sustainability must include tourism, adaptive reuse of existing buildings and limited new construction," he said. "We must be able to begin those economic activities as soon as the Army leaves in September 2011."
The decision was welcomed by Steve Corneliussen, of Citizens for Fort Monroe National Park, who said he was originally concerned the site might have been given over to the city of Hampton for housing development.
"This is a red-letter day for Fort Monroe," he said.
What would be in the national park