Parks and Lands Bills: HR 118
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE ADDITION OF 100 ACRES
TO MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
October 1, 2009
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 118, a bill to authorize the addition of 100 acres to Morristown National Historical Park in the state of New Jersey. The Department supports enactment of this legislation.
H.R. 118 would amend existing law (16 U.S.C. 409g) by increasing the authorization for additional lands at Morristown National Historical Park from 615 to 715 acres.Authorizing this additional 100 acres will enable the park to begin to better protect important Revolutionary War resources as they may become available from willing sellers in the future. This legislation, if enacted, would also enable the park to quickly respond to past offers by Harding Township to donate nine acres for inclusion in the Jockey Hollow unit.
The 2003 General Management Plan for Morristown National Historical Park proposed an increase of up to 500 acres to the park's boundary, predominately through easements, to protect critical properties including those adjacent to Washington's Headquarters, Jockey Hollow, Fort Nonsense, and the New Jersey Brigade unit.
Morristown National Historical Park was the first national historical park established by Congress on March 2, 1933, Public Law 72-409. The park currently contains 1,711 acres consisting of four non-contiguous units: Washington's Headquarters with the Ford Mansion and Headquarters Museum, the Fort Nonsense Unit, the Jockey Hollow Unit, and the New Jersey Brigade Area. The Jockey Hollow Unit includes the Wick house (headquarters of General Arthur St. Clair), five reconstructed soldier huts, and approximately 27 miles of walking trails.
During two critical winters of the Revolutionary War, 1777 and 1779–80, the countryside in and around Morristown, New Jersey, sheltered the main encampments of the American Continental Army and served as the headquarters of its commander-in-chief, General George Washington.
General Washington twice chose Morristown for encampment due to its strategic location, including proximity to New York City, defensible terrain, important communication routes, access to critical resources, and a supportive community. The park encompasses ground occupied by the army during the vast 1779-80 encampment, and the site of the fortification from the 1777 encampment. The Ford Mansion, where Washington made his headquarters, is an important feature of the park and recalls both military and civilian contributions to the winning of our nation's independence.
The park's museum collection includes close to 350,000 items including archeological objects from the encampments; paintings by the Peales, Stuart, Savage, Sully, and other early American artists; 18th century furniture; archival material; Revolutionary War arms and equipment; and, a collection of items, letters and books belonging to George Washington.
Morristown National Historical Park is situated in the heavily populated region of northern New Jersey, a center for that state's continuing growth and development. It is important for the park's future viability, protection of its important Revolutionary War resources, and the enjoyment of its close to 300,000 annual visitors, that lands adjacent to its boundaries be protected from adverse development impacts. H.R. 118 will assist in ensuring the future integrity of this special place that commemorates and interprets seminal events of Revolutionary War history and the sacrifices of those who served during that time to enable the birth of our nation.
As noted at the beginning of this statement, this authorization would enable the park to acquire an additional 100 acres as they may become available in the future by sale or donation from willing landowners.It would enable the park to continue discussions on the possible donation of 9 acres to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Jockey Hollow unit.Because acquisition of these 9 acres would be by donation, the costs of acquisition would be minimal and would likely include survey and title work.The Park Service estimates that full fee acquisition of the remaining acreage authorized would be slightly less than $6 million.However, the preferred method of acquisition would be by donation or the purchase of easements.The estimated cost for acquisition of easements would be approximately $4.8 million or approximately 80 percent of the full fee acquisition cost. The 9 acres, referenced above, is open space adjacent to the park boundary with no structures.There would be no costs for capital improvements or annual operations and maintenance as the open space would remain in its natural state.Posting new boundary markers for the full 100 acres, if acquired in fee simple, would cost approximately $50,000.Regardless, any funding necessary for these acquisition and related costs would be subject to National Park Service priorities and the availability of appropriations.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or members of the committee may have regarding the Department's position on H.R. 118.