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Federal officials tour Fort Monroe
Will Ft. Monroe become a national park?
HAMPTON, Va. (AP/WAVY) - Federal officials toured Fort Monroe and discussed the military outpost's future with community, state and congressional leaders.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis toured the 565-acre site in Hampton on Wednesday.
The Fort Monroe Authority earlier this year voted to seek national park status for the entire peninsula on which the historic fort stands.
The state is scheduled to take over Fort Monroe 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.
Rob Nieweg with the National Trust for Historic Preservation said, "We think given the urgency of the September 15th deadline that the most expeditious way to preserve and best interpret this place is through proclamation pursuant to the 'Antiquities Act'."
The Antiquities Act would allow the President to make Fort Monroe a National Park with little more than a stroke of the pen. But the people must speak with a unified voice to catch the president's ear.
"It works best when it is the local community. When it is the state. When it is the members of congress who say this is what you want," said Secretary Salazar.
Congressman Scott Rigell says he and his colleagues in the Virginia Delegation will be introducing legislation in the House to designate a portion of Fort Monore as a National Park.
Gov. Bob McDonnell issued the following statement regarding the visit by Salazar to Fort Monroe:
“Fort Monroe, on Old Point Comfort in Hampton, has played a significant role in American history dating back to original fortifications established in 1609 and the star fort being built in 1834. The area played a vital role in the birth of our nation, in the Civil War, and in the cultural development of our country. African Americans first came to the New World through Old Point Comfort which sadly marked the beginning of slavery in America. It is also however, the site where slavery began to end with the decision by Major General Benjamin Butler to consider escaped slaves as “contraband of war” and thereby refuse to return them to their former owners. This decision played a key role in the Civil War and led to Ft. Monroe being called “Freedom’s Fortress.” These factors and others led to Fort Monroe’s designation as a national historic landmark in 1960.
“The nation and the Commonwealth will benefit from converting portions of this scenic military base to a national park that can be used by tourists from around the world who wish to take in the beautiful vistas of Hampton Roads and learn about this area’s extensive history. I have strongly supported the Fort Monroe Authority’s efforts to pursue certain areas of the fort becoming part of the National Park System. It is in the public interest to preserve Fort Monroe and its surrounding lands and buildings through a partnership between Virginia and the National Park Service.
“This can happen either through federal legislative actions or by a Presidential action. I applaud Secretary Salazar and Virginian’s congressional delegation for their efforts to explore this possibility. The Commonwealth pledges to work closely with the President and Congress toward the preservation of Fort Monroe as one of our nation’s national treasures.”