S. 2604: To Establish the Baltimore National Heritage Area in the State of Maryland



STATEMENT OF DANIEL N. WENK, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2604 TO ESTABLISH THE BALTIMORE NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 APRIL 23, 2008

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2604, a bill to establish the Baltimore National Heritage Area in the State of Maryland.

We recommend that the committee defer action on S. 2604 and all other proposed heritage area designations until program legislation is enacted that establishes guidelines and a process for the designation of national heritage areas.In summer 2006, the Administration sent to Congress a legislative proposal to establish such guidelines and a process for designation.The National Heritage Areas Partnership Act, S. 278, was introduced during the 110th Congress and it incorporated the majority of the provisions of the Administration's proposal. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this very important issue.

With 37 national heritage areas designated across 27 states, and more heritage area legislative proposals in the pipeline, the Administration believes it is critical at this juncture for Congress to enact national heritage area program legislation.This legislation would provide a much-needed framework for evaluating proposed national heritage areas, offering guidelines for successful planning and management, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and standardizing timeframes and funding for designated areas.Program legislation also would clarify the expectation that heritage areas would work toward self-sufficiency by outlining the necessary steps, including appropriate planning, to achieve that shared goal.

The Baltimore Heritage Area was certified by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority in 2001 as a state heritage area. The Baltimore Heritage Area is managed by the Baltimore City Heritage Area Association, a 40-member board appointed by the Mayor. The Association has a proved track record as a successful coordinating entity among diverse partners in the Baltimore area.Over the past seven years, the Baltimore Heritage Area has proved to be a successful effort, supporting, facilitating, and leveraging interpretive projects, historic preservation projects, and education efforts.The heritage area has strong support from the public and a myriad of state, local, federal, and non-governmental partners throughout the area.

The National Park Service reviewed both the updated management action plan and the feasibility study and concurs that the proposed Baltimore National Heritage Area meets required criteria for congressional designation.In 2006, the Baltimore City Heritage Area Association updated the Baltimore City Heritage Area Management Action Plan that serves as a blueprint for protecting historic, cultural and natural resources through activities and investments within the heritage area. In addition, the Association completed a national heritage area feasibility study, based upon the National Park Service criteria, to determine whether the area met the criteria for national heritage area designation.The study concluded that the region met all of the criteria for designation including the existence of significant levels of public support and local commitments necessary for successful planning and implementation of a heritage area.

The proposed heritage area comprises a large swath of the city of Baltimore, approximately 11,000 acres, and includes 24 National Historic Landmarks, 53,000 buildings listed in 52 National Register of Historic Places historic districts, 8,000 buildings in 30 local historic districts, a system of parks and waterways, five Maryland Scenic Byways, and an All-American Road.In addition to Baltimore's important cultural, natural and recreational resources, the City derives its significance from several key historical events with many opportunities to interpret and provide for public understanding and appreciation of the City's rich history through heritage programming.

First and foremost amongst these is the defense of Baltimore against the British in 1814 by a populace of largely first-generation immigrants and free and enslaved African Americans.The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem, and a new sense of national identity were forged in large part out of this experience.This theme of forging a strong, diverse, and complex national identity is very robust in Baltimore and includes the period of the War of 1812, the notorious domestic slave trade, the earliest organized abolition movement in the South, a vital community of free Blacks, and the City's divided loyalties during the Civil War.All were part of the City's national identity and are still represented in the cityscape, historic buildings, and diverse peoples of Baltimore.

Baltimore was home to Frederick Douglass, Isaac Myers, and Thurgood Marshall each of whom, with their individual contributions, helped forge the identity of the nation.Douglass declared: "Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. . ."The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park commemorates the story of these two men and the first African American shipyard.Resources associated with Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, include Public School 103, the first school Thurgood Marshall attended, and his boyhood home. The Heritage Area has already begun to rehabilitate and interpret the public school.

Other resources representing the theme of national identity include the National Road, the Nation's first federally funded interstate transportation route, that begun in 1811 in Baltimore and headed westward. Themes and resources that are also well-represented in the heritage area include maritime history, immigration, and industrialization.Baltimore was a major shipbuilding center beginning with the famous Baltimore clippers, a major port of entry for new immigrants second only to New York, and the starting point and industrial center of the first long distance railroad into the American frontier.

Mr. Chairman, while the proposed Baltimore National Heritage Area contains nationally distinctive natural and cultural resources and meets the established criteria for congressional designation, we would again request that the committee defer action until national heritage area program legislation is enacted. However, if the committee chooses to move ahead with this bill, the Department would recommend that the bill be amended to include an additional requirement for an evaluation to be conducted by the Secretary, three years prior to the cessation of federal funding under this act.The evaluation would examine the accomplishments of the heritage area in meeting the goals of the management plan; analyze the leveraging and impact of investments to the heritage area; identify the critical components of the management structure and sustainability of the heritage area; and recommend what future role, if any, the National Park Service should have with respect to the heritage area.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. This concludes my prepared remarks and I would be happy to answer any questions that you or the members of the committee may have.