Parks Bills: S 1767 and HR 1121



STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR BUSINESS SERVICES,

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

ON S. 1767

AND H.R. 1121,

BILLS TO AUTHORIZE A LAND EXCHANGE TO ACQUIRE LANDS 

FOR THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY 

FROM THE TOWN OF BLOWING ROCK, NORTH CAROLINA, 

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

NOVEMBER 4, 2009

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1767 and H.R. 1121, bills to authorize a land exchange to acquire lands for the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and for other purposes.

The Department supports this legislation. S. 1767 and H.R. 1121, which are identical in substance, would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to exchange approximately 20 acres of land at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a popular recreational area located within the boundary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, for approximately 192 acres of land owned by the Town of Blowing Rock (Town).This proposed exchange would be mutually beneficial to the National Park Service (NPS) and the Town.

In 1949, the Moses Cone Hospital Trust deeded the 3,500-acre Moses H. Cone Memorial Park to the Blue Ridge Parkway.This property had been held in trust by the hospital from 1911 until 1949 under a deed from Bertha Cone, the property's owner.During that period, Mrs. Cone gave permission to the Town of Blowing Rock to install a pipeline from the Town to a creek on the property.In 1955, the NPS issued a permit to the Town allowing them to dam the creek to form a reservoir, which continues to be used by the Town as its primary source of drinking water.

The Town and NPS officials at the Blue Ridge Parkway have long been in agreement that it would be better for the Town to own and manage their municipal water supply, rather than accessing it through the NPS permitting process.Several years ago, NPS and the Town sought to initiate an administrative land exchange. In November 2003, the Town purchased a 192-acre tract of land adjacent to the Cone Memorial Park in anticipation of exchanging this land for approximately 20 acres of land within the Cone Memorial Park that would include the reservoir and a small amount of land that the Town could flood in order to increase the size of the reservoir.The proposed exchange would give the Town an unencumbered water supply and the potential for some expansion of capacity, while the NPS would receive a 192-acre buffer tract that would provide recreational opportunities and preservation and protection of resources at the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We believe that this exchange, which has been underway for several years, would be facilitated and hastened through passage of S. 1767 or H.R. 1121, authorizing bills that establish clear expectations for both the Town and the NPS regarding the exchange process.

When the House Resources Committee considered H.R. 1121 on July 9, 2009, the committee adopted amendments recommended by the Department to allow the acreage amounts in the bill to be adjusted to equalize land values and to provide a three-year time frame for the exchange.H.R. 1121, as amended, passed the House on July 27, 2009.The changes made to the H.R. 1121 are reflected in S. 1767.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.