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Hampton shows mass support for national park at Fort Monroe
'Let's get it done' is the refrain heard from residents, politicians
By David Macaulay, email@example.com | 247-7838 Daily Press
6:50 a.m. EDT, July 20, 2011
HAMPTON ó Hundreds of people showed up Tuesday to support bringing a national park to Fort Monroe.
The case for a national park was made by ordinary citizens, politicians and members of conservation organizations. The National Park Service wanted public opinion on the proposals and meetings were held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Approximately 400 people came for the afternoon session hosted by Terrence Moore, the park service's Northeast Region's division chief for planning and compliance.
Monika Malone, a board member of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, became emotional as she spoke of the long struggle to bring a park to the historic post. She presented a petition of about 7,000 citizens of Hampton who want to bring a park to Monroe.
"They told us it couldn't be done. Guess what? It can be done. The system works," said Louis Guy, of the Norfolk Historical Society.
State Del. Mamye E. BaCote, who represents parts of Newport News and Hampton, adopted a bullish theme taken up by others, when she told officials: "Let's get it done."
Hampton Councilman Will Moffett, who has served as a federal employee at Fort Monroe for more than 30 years, described it as "one of the greatest installations in America."
"Today clearly demonstrates that we have the resolve, that we have the energy and the direction and the support. We are calling today on the National Park Service as well as our president of the United States to look here to America's first and let's get it done," he said.
Del. Gordon Helsel who represents the 91st District in the House of Delegates, urged officials to act.
"I am here on behalf of my constituents to ask that you please do everything possible to ensure that the National Park Service establishes a unit at Fort Monroe. The history of Fort Monroe is the history of our area and also the United States," he said.
Helsel said he could "think of no better living example of a community in need of a National Park Service as Fort Monroe," he said.
The Army is vacating Fort Monroe on Sept. 15, and it will transfer ownership to the Commonwealth of Virginia in early 2012.
A number of conservation and non-profit organizations were represented at the meeting including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks Conservation Association. Pamela Goddard of the association urged President Barack Obama to act before Sept. 15 to create a National Monument at Fort Monroe.
Kristie Bradner, a Hampton teacher, said Fort Monroe is a valuable asset. "It's a place that can educate the public of some of the most significant events of the Civil War such as the time when it was a place of refuge for African-American slaves."
Moore, the park service's representative, said the proposed park service boundary "does not include all of the resources at Fort Monroe" but includes the area within the road system around the stone fortress. The other boundary would begin just north of the Wherry Housing quarter and stretch north to Dog Beach, close to Buckroe Beach.
He listed a number of buildings of particular interest to the service, Buildings 1, 50 and 17, and mentioned the potential leasehold interest in Casemate 22, directly north of the Casemate Museum.
Moore said the service would own some buildings and there would be easements to "ensure the historical integrity" of resources within the park area.