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Nearly 3,000 back National Park at Fort Monroe
Daily Press August 01, 2011
HAMPTON - About 2,700 people provided comments to the National Park Service when asked whether a national park should be at Fort Monroe - and the vast majority favor a park.
National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said Monday about 1,700 comments were received on line by the July 26 deadline and approximately 1,000 comments were received in the mail.
"It's a very good response ... they were far and away in favor of National Park Service stewardship of the site," he said.
The National Park Service also heard comments at two public meetings on July 19.
Hampton Mayor Molly Ward estimated almost 1,000 people attended those meetings at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The focus was on establishing a park at the fort after the Army vacates the post on Sept. 15.
Bills to set up a National Park at Fort Monroe have already been submitted in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
The National Park Service is still working on how much it would cost to run a park at Fort Monroe, Olson said.
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va. Beach, told The Associated Press that a national park at the fort would cost about $600,000 a year. Rigell has introduced the legislation to set up a National Park in the House of Representatives.
Although the park service is facing a maintenance backlog bill running of billions of dollars, Rigell remains hopeful it will be possible to find the money. "I think finding $600,000 in offsets, frankly, is like finding a penny on the ground," he told AP.
The Fort Monroe Authority, the City of Hampton and the local congressional delegation are pursuing two different routes to bring a National Park Service unit to Fort Monroe. They have also appealed to President Barack Obama to designate Fort Monroe as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act, a route that would be quicker than legislation.
The National Park footprint proposed by the National Park Service is smaller than the one voted on by the board of the Fort Monroe Authority earlier this year, but it includes open areas the park service did not support in a statement made after a visit in 2010.
Under the new map, the park service would own about 194 acres. A National Park Service-Fort Monroe Authority easement area would comprise 130 acres. The park service's boundary would cover 324 acres, leaving about 241 acres of the total acreage at the post.
Areas outside the control of the National Park Service would be owned and administered by the Fort Monroe Authority, a political subdivision of the state of Virginia.
The park service is interested in an area encircling the historic fort, ownership of Buildings 1, 17 and 50, and leasing Casemate 22. It would also own the Dog Beach area at the north end of Fort Monroe.
Terrie Suit, who chairs the board of the Fort Monroe Authority, said Monday she did not have any information on the cost of a National Park at Fort Monroe.