SEE RESIDENTIAL HOUSING AVAILABLE NOW
Fort Monroe 'unlikely' to become national park
By MATTHEW STURDEVANT
HAMPTON — It's unlikely the federal government will have money to maintain and operate all or even part of Fort Monroe as a national park, according to a National Park Service study released Tuesday.
"We would just be taking over a large building inventory," said Terrence Moore, chief of park planning and special studies for the northeast region.
The Park Service has spent about seven months doing a preliminary study to see if it is feasible to turn Fort Monroe into a national park once the Army leaves in September 2011. U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, a Norfolk Republican, requested $25,000 in federal funding for the study.
It is doubtful the entire 570-acre historic military base would qualify to be included as a national park, and even the moated area that includes a parade grounds and some buildings is unlikely to be included in the National Park System without "a strong and financially sustainable partner to offset a large percentage of any capital, maintenance and operational costs," according to the study.
The cost of operating and maintaining the fort was cited as one of the most significant barriers.
The park service estimates there is $129.9million in deferred maintenance costs that need to be funded. Additionally, the park service calculated the Army's annual maintenance and operations costs to be $34million.
"It is very clear even from this very preliminary sample of potential costs that it is unlikely that a Special Resource Study would find it feasible, in light of current and anticipated (park service) budget constraints, for the (park service) to manage, maintain and operate the full range of resources comprising Fort Monroe," the study says. "In effect, (the park service) would simply act as Fort Monroe's landlord undertaking its own reuse plan for extensive private uses of resources that may or may not be sustainable."
The good news for a group that wants the base to be a national park is that the park service said Fort Monroe's resources have significant historic value and likely warrant a more in-depth feasibility study that requires Congressional approval.
The park service went on to say that such a study should not be conducted until after the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority submits a reuse plan that the Department of Defense has reviewed and approved.
The authority is charged with managing the property once the Army leaves. A draft of how the property could become a tourist destination is described in a reuse plan expected to be submitted to the Department of Defense in August or September.
"There is no question that Fort Monroe is rich in history — colonial history, military and maritime history, architectural history, and especially African-American history," Drake said in a prepared statement. "The FMFADA and Comonwealth of Virginia, as the eventual stewards of Fort Monore, should work closely with the preservation and business communities, regional leaders, and other stakeholders to ensure that this property is appropriately reused and reaches its fullest potential."
The Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park agrees with the assessment that Fort Monroe has the relevance and stature to be considered for national park status. They said a traditional park is not the answer.
"We urge Virginia's leaders to work proactively to secure a Special Resource Study that is integrated with the subsequent effort to fully plan a self-sustaining grand public place at Fort Monroe for the benefit of all," said Steven T. Corneliussen, vice president of citizens group.
L. Preston Bryant Jr., chairman of the development authority, said the study is a professional assessment of Fort Monroe, and brings up some key issues to consider "as we prepare plans not only to preserve it but highlight its tourism, educational and economic development promise."
Cost to make Fort Monroe a national park
The National Park Services says it will cost $129.9 million to take care of deferred maintenance at Fort Monroe. Annual maintenance and operating costs for the Army is estimated to be $34 million. Preliminary staffing costs for a national park at Fort Monroe would be $7.47 million, including:
Source: National Park Service Reconnaissance Study of Fort Monroe, May 2008