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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Parks and Wilderness Bills: S 1801












MAY 19, 2010

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S.1801, a bill to establish the First State National Historical Park in the State of Delaware.

The Department strongly supports the establishment of a unit of the national park system in Delaware as proposed by S. 1801, but is concerned about the addition of certain resources in the bill that were found not to meet congressionally established criteria for unit designation, and the terms of the park-specific grant authorization.

In 2008, pursuant to Public Law 109-338, the National Park Service completed a Special Resource Study of the coastal area of Delaware and identified a number of resources of national significance that were determined suitable and feasible to administer as a unit of the national park system. These included historic resources that were instrumental in early Swedish, Dutch, and English settlement in the United States, and others associated with Delaware's role as the nation's first state.

In 1638, Peter Minuet led Swedish colonists to present day Wilmington, Delaware, and established New Sweden at a point known as "the rocks" on the Christina River. The settlers constructed Fort Christina at this location and this site is now a National Historic Landmark. In 1698, Swedish settlers established Holy Trinity ("Old Swedes") Church near the fort, the oldest church building standing as originally built in the United States and also a National Historic Landmark.

In 1651, Peter Stuyvesant led Dutch settlers from New Amsterdam and constructed Fort Casimir at a place he named "New Amstel," in present day New Castle, Delaware. Conflicts between the Swedish and Dutch colonists resulted in changing occupations of the fort with the Dutch regaining control in 1655. Also in 1665, the English arrived at New Amstel and seized control of the settlement, renaming it "New Castle." William Penn landed in New Castle in 1682 and took possession of the city.In 1704, Penn established Delaware's Assembly and New Castle remained the colonial capital of Delaware until 1776. The New Castle Historic District, which contains multiple resources from the time of earliest settlement through the Federal era, is a National Historic Landmark.

Delaware's important role as the nation's first state is also exhibited in resources of national significance. Delaware's representatives to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention played important parts in the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and crafting of the United States Constitution. On June 15, 1776, the Delaware Assembly, meeting in New Castle, voted to sever its ties with the English Crown three weeks prior to the Declaration signed in Philadelphia on July 4th.National Historic Landmarks associated with these early revolutionary leaders include the homes of John Dickinson (the "Penman of the Revolution"), Gunning Bedford, Jr., and George Read.The Dover Green witnessed Delaware's vote to become the first state to ratify the nation's new Constitution.

S. 1801 would establish the First State National Historical Park to include the resources cited above that the Special Resource Study found meet the criteria for congressional designation of a unit of the national park system.The staff of the new park would be authorized to interpret related resources outside of the boundary, within the state of Delaware.The Special Resource Study estimated annual operating costs for the park at $450,000 to $550,000, which would fund 5-7 FTEs, and costs associated with a general management plan at $600,000.The bill provides for $3 million in one-time matching grants for rehabilitation of existing structures to serve as administrative and visitor services facilities for the park and $2.5 million in one-time matching grants for historic preservation, interpretive devices, and the design, construction, installation, and maintenance of exhibits. The latter may include matching grants for research and exhibits at the Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes, and the State Archives in Dover, Delaware. All funding would be subject to NPS priorities and the availability of appropriations. A study of additional resources related to the purpose of the park is also authorized to assess their potential eligibility for National Historic Landmark designation and options for maintaining the historic integrity of such resources.

S.1801 also proposes to include within the park boundary the historic district in Lewes, Delaware. This district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance and the National Register nomination for the district indicates that today its significance is based primarily on its fine examples of Victorian architecture. The Department questions adding this historic district to the park boundary as identified in the Special Resource Study since it is not a National Historic Landmark, does not meet the required national significance criterion for unit designation, and is not consistent with the park's purpose as outlined in Section 4(b) of S. 1801.

However, we note that Section 4(g) of S. 1801 permits interpretation of resources related to the purposes of the park located outside of its boundary. We would suggest that any extant resources in Lewes, within or outside of the historic district, relating to early Dutch, Swedish and English settlement, or Delaware's role as the first state, would be eligible for interpretation without including this district in the park boundary. Such resources would also be candidates for further analysis as to their National Historic Landmark potential under the bill's study provisions in Section 5.

We also note that Section 6 would authorize one-time matching grants to State and local governments, private property owners and nonprofit organizations to pay for the historic preservation of non-Federal resources within the park boundaries. While some parks now provide limited financial assistance through cooperative agreements, the limited matching grant authorization proposed in Section 6 could raise expectations that the National Park Service would be asked to provide annual financial assistance for the operation and maintenance of these non-Federal sites within the park boundary.

We would like work with the Committee to further clarify that the grants under Section 6 are one-time grants and not reoccurring grants. We would also like to work with the committee on a technical amendment regarding the appropriate wording for the New Castle Historic District in Section 2(a)(2)(B)(ii) and inclusion of a map reference in Section 3.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be happy to respond to any questions that you or other members of the committee may have.