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Skepticism grows over National Park at Fort MonroePosted on the Hampton Matters Blog, Monday, November 29, 2010
David Macaulay blogs about any and everything pertaining to the city of Hampton Contact him at email@example.com.
For more than a year the idea of bringing a National Park to Fort Monroe has been viewed as some kind of panacea for prosperity.
The Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority (FMFADA), the predecessor of today's Fort Monroe Authority, formally backed a plan to bring a National Park Service unit to Fort Monroe, over a year ago and officials have been pursuing the idea vigorously with the National Park Service ever since.
I heard the first note of skepticism over the idea at the Nov. 18 board meeting of the Fort Monroe Authority.
At that meeting David Dutton of the planning company Dutton + Associates, a member of the authority's National Park Service Task Force, made clear the limited nature of the NPS interest in Fort Monroe. In a report following an NPS visit in the summer, officials made it clear their main area of interest is restricted to a historic area around the fort.
And 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," Dutton said.
Terrie Suit, who chairs the FMA, has already brought some much needed skepticism to proceedings. Suit said it was her understanding from a recent meeting with the NPS that's it's an "extraordinary lengthy process" to get the NPS to take in new properties.
Suit said the fact that NPS has said it's interested does not mean a National Park coming to Fort Monroe is a "slam dunk."
"This is probably a four, five year if not longer process," she said. Suit suggested the process could be complicated further if FMA asked for a larger National Park, an option favored by Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.
A concern about the future role of the NPS was expressed by Douglas W. Domenech, Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources, who is on the FMA board. "I think we have to be careful how much we give or how much we put on the table for the park service, because once they're there, they're not going to ever go away, especially their requests for some of the easements. Essentially we have a finite number of acres. The more we give them control over, they will exercise control over it," Domenech said.
"Even within the footprint of the fort ... they will have a say over everything else in that space because they will insist on it."
"I think we have to be very careful about giving additional easements and say and control. Otherwise we will be giving most of this away," said Domenech. He suggested the NPS would have a say over proposals to set up new bed and breakfasts and hotels at Monroe.
Suit didn't seem too concerned about control issues as long as the feds arrive with dollars. FMA is predicting a loss in its first two or three years of operating after the Army leaves next September and some board members are skeptical that this is an over optimistic prediction.
"As long as it comes with money and they will the pay for all the upkeep and maintenanance and services that are provided by the City of Hampton," Suit said. However, the idea of the NPS injecting large amounts of money into Monroe seems to run against its support for a limited park and the cherry picking of a few of the most important buildings.
Steven Corneliussen of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, who spoke in the public comments section, took issue with Domenech's concerns. "Yes, indeed sir the National Park Service never goes away. That's the point," he said. "That's part of why we want the National Park Service here ... the National Park Service gives a certain stability," he said.
The FMA remains on course to pursue the National Park option but as the clock ticks away to September 15, 2011, the date the Army leaves, it's becoming increasingly clear the feds are unlikely to be swooping in to sort out all of Fort Monroe's issues.