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Want a National Park at Fort Monroe? Then act now!
9:00 p.m. EDT, July 16, 2011
There is a saying from one of my favorite movies, 1989's "Field of Dreams," that says: "If You Build It, They Will Come."
This phrase and the charm of the movie suggest that a leap of faith, a call to action, and bold steps must be taken in order to accomplish a goal. I have a call to action for the citizens and businesses of Hampton Roads.
On Tuesday, July 19, the National Park Service will hold two public hearings to gauge public support for the establishment of a national park at Fort Monroe.
It is incumbent upon all citizens of Hampton Roads to come out and personally express support for a national park at Fort Monroe. If the National Park system is to come to Fort Monroe, they need to know that the community will be supportive. We cannot take for granted that the National Park Service at Fort Monroe is a fait accompli. Therefore, I urge you to please attend one or both of the Tuesday, July 19, public hearings at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, 1610 Coliseum Drive in Hampton. The first meeting will be held from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and the second meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.
Fort Monroe will close as an Army base Sept. 15, and we must act now to preserve access to the stone fortress that is a historic landmark, as well as protect its relatively undeveloped two miles of beaches and marshlands. Future generations should be able to visit Fort Monroe to see it for themselves and experience living history.
I am proud and honored to serve Virginia's 91st House of Delegates district that includes the area of Fort Monroe. On July 13, 2011, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William J. Howell, officially named me to the board of trustees of the Fort Monroe Authority. I am humbled, honored and excited to represent the 91st district on the FMA board.
One of the first pieces of legislation that I introduced at the special redistricting session of the Virginia General Assembly on June 9, 2011, was a resolution commending the Fort Monroe Authority, the city of Hampton and the Hampton Roads congressional delegation on collective efforts to encourage the National Park Service to establish Fort Monroe as a unit of the U.S. Park Service.
I want President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to know that the Virginia General Assembly and the House of Delegates are entirely supportive and encouraging of the National Park Service taking as large a role as possible in protecting and preserving Fort Monroe. And further, that President Obama be encouraged to use his powers as provided in the Antiquities Act to make this happen as soon as possible.
After all, the story of Fort Monroe is the story of our nation. Let it also be the story of a citizen-engaged effort to preserve and protect this special place that has such important historical and cultural meaning.
I will be at the public hearings in order to provide my encouragement to the National Park Service. I am calling on all citizens and businesses to come out and encourage the National Park Service as well.
After all, public involvement in this request may be the deciding factor between a National Park Service unit at Fort Monroe or some other location. If you are not able to attend the hearing, please submit comments online by July 26 to the park service at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/fortmonroe.
A clear demonstration of community support is needed so that it will get built and the National Park Service will come to Fort Monroe.
Helsel represents the 91st House District in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Want a National Park?
What: Public hearings by the National Park Service
When: Tuesday, July 19, from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hampton Roads Convention Center, Hampton
Who: Everyone's invited — not just Hampton resdents — to come out and support the community's effort to have Fort Monroe become a National Park.
Copyright © 2011, Newport News, Va., Daily Press