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Ft. Monroe board urges transfer of land to park service
By Kate Wiltrout The Virginian-Pilot © August 11, 2011
The Fort Monroe Authority's board is recommending the direct transfer of 244 acres of the historic base to the National Park Service when the Army leaves next month.
Officials in Hampton Roads, Richmond and Washington are still hammering out specifics, but the latest proposal would see the state retain ownership of about 241 acres, while the park service would take immediate possession of 244 acres and lease another 80 from the state.
Bruce Sturk, director of federal facilities support for the city of Hampton, said the board voted unanimously Tuesday on the recommendation.
It now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
On Sept. 15, the Army is leaving the 565-acre fort at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the land reverts to the state. Although park service officials have indicated in recent months they're interested in managing some of the land, they initially wanted less property than the authority had hoped.
That seems to be changing, said Sturk and Hampton Mayor Molly Ward, who attended a meeting last week in Washington with state and federal officials about the fort's future.
Ward said the park service expressed interest in direct, or "fee ownership," of much of the undeveloped land at the eastern end of the fort, as well as some property - including the parade ground and a few buildings - inside the moated stone fort.
"My vision, and I think it's a shared vision, is that on Sept. 15, when the Army furls its flag, the NPS would be there to unfold its flag," Sturk said.
If McDonnell enacts the recommendation, the National Park Service would own or control 57 percent of the fort's property.
"I'm adamantly in favor of it," said Ward, who is an authority board member.
She noted that about 3,000 people responded to the park service's request for written comment about the fort's future, with most overwhelmingly in favor of a national park or monument there.
Only Congress can create a national park, and legislation is pending to do that. Another option is for President Barack Obama to use the Antiquities Act to declare a place a national monument, which the park service would manage.
Sturk and Ward said they hope one of those things happens by - or perhaps on - Sept. 15.
"I think the stars are aligned," Ward said.