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Governor endorses federal role at Fort Monroe
By Kate Wiltrout
Gov. Bob McDonnell has thrown his support behind efforts to establish a National Park Service unit at Fort Monroe, saying it's in the public interest to preserve parts of the historic site through a partnership between Virginia and the park service. "The American people have long entrusted the nation's historical landmarks to the National Park Service for preserving local and national history and celebrating local and national heritage," McDonnell wrote in a letter to the state authority overseeing the property's transition to state control. So it's appropriate to seek park status for "certain areas" on the 570-acre waterfront property. Dated May 11, the letter was made public on Thursday at a Fort Monroe Authority board
The authority has long sought to form an alliance with the park service to help it manage the 570-acre waterfront property home to the largest stone fort in the U.S. Local congressional representatives and both Virginia senators endorse the vision, too.
What isn't clear is how big a role the federal agency would play at Fort Monroe. Park service officials have expressed interest in overseeing the area inside the moat, but some people would like to see the service play a broader role.
Another point of contention is how much new development would be allowed in the open spaces. McDonnell didn't address those issues; instead he committed to working closely with the President and Congress "to accomplish this important milestone." There isn't any time to spare: the authority takes over the property in less than four months.
Two options are being pursued. Legislators have requested assistance from the park service in drafting a bill that would establish a national park at the site. Alternatively, the congressional delegation is asking President Obama to use his executive powers to give the spot federal protection in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Fort Monroe became known as Freedom's Fortress during the war. Thousands of slaves hungry for freedom descended upon the Union base after the commanding general decided not to return escaped slaves to their southern masters.