Parks and Lands Bills: H.R. 5853
STATEMENT OF DANIEL N. WENK,
DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS
OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
CONCERNING H.R. 5853, A BILL TO EXPAND THE BOUNDARY
OF THE MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
TO INCLUDE BARRETT'S FARM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
JULY 15, 2008
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 5853, a bill to expand the boundary of the Minute Man National Historical Park to include the home and surrounding farmland of Colonel James Barrett and the area around the Joshua Brooks House.
The Department supports the enactment of this bill. In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks on April 23, 2008, the Administration also supported enactment of S. 2513, a similar bill.
In December 2006, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to evaluate the significance of the Colonel James Barrett Farm and to assess the suitability and feasibility of including the farm in the National Park System as part of the Minute Man National Historical Park. The National Park Service consulted affected property owners, state and local governments, preservation organizations, and the public, and incorporated their views into the findings of the study. The boundary study and environmental assessment, transmitted to Congress in March 2008, concluded that the expansion of the boundary of the park to include the home and surrounding farmland of Colonel James Barrett and the area around the Joshua Brooks House, met the criteria for boundary expansions and that inclusion within the boundary was important to ensure the protection of nationally significant resources and values. There is extensive public support for the boundary expansion.
H.R. 5853 would permit the inclusion of 67 acres of land within the boundary of the Minute Man National Historical Park, thus adding significant properties to the park that might be cooperatively managed or acquired from willing sellers. The potential boundary expansions were found to meet all National Park Service criteria including the ability to protect significant resources, enhance opportunities for public enjoyment, and improve management capabilities.
The most significant property proposed for inclusion within the revised boundary is the Colonel James Barrett Farm, located at 448 Barrett's Mill Road, Concord, Massachusetts, two miles from the town center and from Minute Man National Historical Park. It includes the home and surrounding farmland of Colonel James Barrett (1710-1779), Revolutionary War patriot and one of the leading figures in the events leading up to the British march on Concord in April 1775. The Barrett Farmhouse and a total of 10 parcels on 64 acres of land that has been farmed continuously since the 18th century would be included in the expanded boundary.
The farm was a major hiding place for the colonists' stores of arms and ammunition. British troops headed there on April 19, 1775 but found nothing, the residents having been alerted by Paul Revere in time to secrete muskets, canons and powder in the fields. The Battles of Lexington and Concord occurred later that day, marking the start of the Revolutionary War. Minute Man National Historical Park encompasses 967 acres and includes the North Bridge, site of "the shot heard round the world," and the historic Battle Road, where the British both advanced and retreated. Barrett's farm was the impetus for the British advance and the vigorous work of Colonel Barrett and his militia was a key reason for the British retreat.
Considered for inclusion when Minute Man National Historical Park was established in 1959, the farm was then in private ownership and not available for acquisition. The farmhouse is now owned by Save Our Heritage, Inc. a local nonprofit organization, which seeks to preserve it for public use and enjoyment. The group has been working closely with the Town of Concord and has expended over $2 million to acquire the farmhouse and in addition, has raised $770,000 to provide urgently needed stabilization of the building. Much of the surrounding acreage is owned by the Town and is managed as agricultural conservation land, thus preserving the historic agrarian landscape. Owners of the three private parcels have been consulted and have no objection to the boundary change.
The other property included in the proposed boundary expansion abuts the historic Joshua Brooks House, which is owned by the National Park Service. Located at 37 North Great Road (Battle Road), this 3-acre parcel is partially inside the park boundary. Expanding the boundary would ensure protection of the viewshed around the Joshua Brooks House, a key spot on the Battle Road, by permitting acquisition of the property in fee or through a less-than-fee purchase such as a conservation easement.
The estimated increase in annual operations, maintenance and interpretation costs resulting from the acquisition of lands authorized with this proposed boundary expansion would be approximately $65,000.
Of the 67 acres authorized in this boundary expansion, the only land that is envisioned to be acquired by the National Park Service is the 4.5 acres that include the farmhouse and the adjacent farmland. The approximate cost to acquire the 4.5 acres would be $2.1 million. Funding for these costs would be subject to NPS priorities and availability of appropriations. For the remaining 62.5 acres, most of the land (55+ acres) within the potential boundary expansion at Barrett's Farm is owned by the Town of Concord or the Concord School Committee. The park is only authorized to acquire land from a government entity by donation. The rest of the acreage could be protected through conservation easements or management agreements.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to comment. This concludes my prepared remarks and I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members might have.