SEE RESIDENTIAL HOUSING AVAILABLE NOW
Backers look to Fort Monroe as a national parkFort Monroe is one step closer to becoming a national park
By Associated Press, Sunday, March 27, 11:43 AM
The 11-member Fort Monroe Authority voted unanimously Thursday to seek national park status for the entire peninsula on which the historic fort stands, The Virginian-Pilot reports. But the authority would retain strict control over development at the fort.Some sections would be off-limits for construction, and much of the open space would remain intact for public recreation.
The state is scheduled to take over the 570-acre military outpost in Hampton in September. It was slated for closure by the federal government in 2005 as part of a round of base closings intended to save money.
The base includes 170 historic buildings and the largest moated stone fort in the U.S.
It was known as "Freedom's Fortress" during the Civil War because it was a destination for escaped slaves.
The authority has long advocated for a national park at the fort, but until recently supported only a limited federal role.
The board endorsed including Dog Beach, an airfield and a strip of land between Bay Breeze Community Center and Barrery DeRussy, an early 20th-century coast gun battery facing the Chesapeake Bay in the property under federal control.
The authority agreed it would manage that land and use it only for tourism and hospitality purposes, not new residential or commercial developments.
The authority wants a national park that could attract history tourists already drawn to the area by Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown and others who would enjoy more than 3 miles of bayfront beaches and 200 acres of natural habitat.
Supporters hope Congress will vote this year to give the fort national park status. But they say they’ll keep an eye on developments to make sure the land is used as planned.
"We're still going to be working to make sure whatever happens here is an asset, not a drawback," said Mark Perreault, president of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.
Destry Jarvis, brother of the park service director and a consultant to the National Parks Conservation Association, told the board he's never seen such a strong candidate for a national park, with united community and political support.
"You've got what it takes," Jarvis said. "This is the next great urban park in America."
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com