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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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H.R. 2087 Parks and Lands Bills




STATEMENT OF DR. HERBERT C. FROST, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND

STATEMENT OF DR. HERBERT C. FROST, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS, OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 2087, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO REMOVE RESTRICTIONS FROM A PARCEL OF LAND SITUATED IN ATLANTIC DISTRICT, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VIRGINIA.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 2087, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to remove restrictions from a parcel of land situated in Accomack County, Virginia. 

The Department does not support H.R. 2087.  The bill directs the Secretary to undertake actions in order to remove deed restrictions on Wallops Park in Accomack County, Virginia.  As a result of this bill, there would be a net loss of public park and recreation land in Accomack County.

In 1976, the National Park Service (NPS) conveyed approximately 31.6 acres to Accomack County to develop Wallops Park for park and recreation use by the general public through provisions of what is now called the Federal Lands to Parks program.  This property was conveyed at no cost under authority of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended (40 U.S.C. 550(b) and (e)) on the condition that it be used in perpetuity for public park and recreation purposes.  It is our understanding that Wallops Park continues to be a popular county park with ball fields, playgrounds, picnic tables, grills, and a nature trail among other amenities.  H.R. 2087 would remove the perpetual public park and recreation use restriction that was in the Deed of Conveyance and would put the continued public use of Wallops Park in doubt.

The purpose of the Federal Lands to Parks program is to help communities increase opportunities for public recreation by increasing land committed to and protected for parks and recreation areas.  The Federal Government increased the quality and quantity of Accomack County’s public parkland by providing this land for the public’s use at no cost to the county.  The NPS is aware that recipients of park land through the Federal Lands to Parks program occasionally have a need to use the transferred property for purposes other than public parks and recreation.  Consequently, there are options available to accommodate changing local land needs.  The NPS, along with the General Services Administration (GSA), which is the agency that oversees the Federal land disposal process, developed a land exchange process to enable some flexibility to communities when local needs and circumstances change. 

A land exchange requires that replacement land be of equal fair market value in order to protect the Federal Government’s financial interest and be of recreational value and usefulness to avoid a net loss of recreational opportunity locally.  The NPS and GSA would be willing to continue to work closely with Accomack County to explore the possibility of an exchange of the Wallops Park land for other Accomack County land that has the same or greater value and recreational utility for the Wallops Park land.

The Deed of Conveyance also includes a reversion provision that allows the County to return the property to the United States for further property disposal by GSA.  As part of this property disposal process, it is possible that the County could buy the property at current fair market value without the perpetual public park and recreation use restriction.  However, if Accomack County chose to return the property to the United States, GSA may take the property through various phases of the disposal process, contingent upon expressions of interest and the circumstances surrounding the case. 

Mr. Chairman that concludes my prepared testimony.  I would be glad to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.