Parks Bills: HR 6111
STATEMENT OF PETER MAY,
ASSOCIATE REGIONAL DIRECTOR, LANDS, RESOURCES AND PLANNING,
NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
CONCERNING H.R. 6111,
TO AMEND THE CHESAPEAKE AND OHIO CANAL DEVELOPMENT ACT
TO EXTEND THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHESAPEAKE AND
OHIO CANAL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK COMMISSION.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2010
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R.6111, a bill which would amend the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Development Act to extend the authority of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission.
The Department supports H.R. 6111.The establishment of the Commission on January 8, 1971, stemmed in part from the unique nature of the canal. It is unlike most areas administered by the National Park Service as it is a linear park running along a 185-mile stretch of river shoreline and is flanked by the nation's capital, suburban communities and numerous small towns.
H.R. 6111 would change the termination date of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission from 40 years to 50 years after the effective date of January 8, 1971. The Commission's authority terminates in January 8, 2011. H.R.6111 would extend that authority to January 8, 2021.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, begun in 1828 and completed in 1850, runs continuously 185 miles from Georgetown in the District of Columbia through Maryland and West Virginia to Cumberland in Maryland. Originally planned to link Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of this nation's canal-building boom, the canal was constructed to be a major commercial route. While the canal operated until 1924 when it was abandoned, competition from the newly-constructed railroad and the National Road resulted in it having much less commercial success than its builders had hoped. In 1938, the United States purchased the narrow canal right-of-way from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland, and partially restored the lower end of the canal.
In 1961, the C & O Canal Monument was created by Presidential Proclamation but received no funding to develop the area or acquire adjacent lands. A proposal to construct a highway along the canal's route met considerable public opposition led by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and this grassroots support ultimately led to the establishment of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, running the length of the original canal.
When the park was established in 1971, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission was created. The 19-member commission has served to link the various jurisdictions along the length of the park. Under the 1971 legislation, the Secretary of the Interior is directed to meet and consult with the commission at least annually on general policies and specific matters related to the administration and development of the park.
The C & O Canal National Historical Park Commission has performed valuable service during the past 39 years in advising and assisting the National Park Service in the administration and development of the C & O Canal park. In the early years, the commission served as the vehicle for public meetings in the development of the general plan for the park, and subsequently for several park, site-specific development concept plans. In the years since, the commission has served as the public forum for discussing implementation of plans along the 185 miles of the park.
The C & O Canal National Historical Park Commission represents not only the local park neighbors, but the national constituency as well. Many commission members have a life-long interest in the C & O Canal and the National Park Service. The commission meets quarterly.Commission members are only compensated for reimbursement of actual expenses for meetings. Individual members of the commission serve on various volunteer groups and participate in park-sponsored events throughout the year.The commissioners communicate directly with the park superintendent during meetings and individually throughout the year regarding park issues.
The commission continues to be a necessity because the park is spread across 19 political jurisdictions.The commission assists park staff in reaching out to these numerous constituencies and ensuring that all their views are heard.
The work of managing C & O Canal National Historical Park will continue beyond January 8, 2011, and the public connection to park management through the commission should continue as well.
This completes my prepared comments concerning H.R 6111.I will be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.