Parks Bills: H.R. 1545



STATEMENT OF KAREN TAYLOR-GOODRICH,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, VISITOR AND RESOURCE PROTECTION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS

OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING H.R. 1545,

TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR

TO CONDUCT A BOUNDARY STUDY TO EVALUATE

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FORT SAN GERONIMO

AND OTHER RELATED RESOURCES IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO

AND THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF THEIR INCLUSION

IN THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM AS PART OF THE SAN JUAN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.


OCTOBER 30, 2007

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 1545, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a boundary study to evaluate the significance of Fort San Geronimo and other related resources in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the suitability and feasibility of their inclusion in the National Park System as part of the San Juan National Historic Site, and for other purposes.

 The Department supports H.R. 1545, with an amendment as stated in this testimony. However, the Department feels that priority should be given to the 35 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic River System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress.

 Studies of this type typically take approximately three years to complete after funds are made available. We estimate the cost for this study to be approximately $250,000.

 H.R. 1545 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary), in coordination with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, local governments, and other interested parties, to conduct a boundary study to evaluate the significance of Fort San Geronimo, as well as the suitability and feasibility of including the fort and related resources within the National Park System as a part of San Juan National Historic Site. The study would be required to be completed within one year after funds are made available.

 San Juan National Historic Site includes forts San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro, and San Juan de la Cruz also called El Cañuelo, plus bastions, powder houses, and three fourths of the city wall. These historic forts were built by Spanish troops beginning in 1539 and they surround the old, colonial portion of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

 Several sections of the original Spanish fortification system were not included in San Juan National Historic Site. These sections include the South Wall, Fort San Gerónimo, the Escambrón Battery, the remains of the First Line of Defense, and the Tajamar Battery. Also, a section of the El Morro grounds, referred to as Parcel B, was transferred to the Commonwealth and the park currently manages it, but does not own it.

 Fort San Gerónimo is not part of the San Juan National Historic Site and it is the only one of the four forts in the original fortification system that is not included. The U.S. Army transferred title of Fort San Gerónimo and adjacent land to the Navy Department in 1921 and the Navy transferred the Fort to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1957. The fort is located adjacent to the Caribe Hilton Hotel and it has been used as the site of special functions and events. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture is the agency with primary jurisdiction over the fort.

 We recommend that the bill be amended to direct the Secretary to complete the study within three years after funds are made available. This would make the bill consistent with other, similar study bills.

 Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have.