S.1083-Parks and Memorials Bills



STATEMENT OF WILLIAM D. SHADDOX, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1083, TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE ROUTE OF THE SMOKY HILL TRAIL, AN OVERLAND TRAIL ACROSS THE GREAT PLAINS DURING PIONEER DAYS IN KANSAS AND COLORADO, FOR STUDY FOR POTENTIAL ADDITION TO THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM.

OCTOBER 19, 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 S. 1083, to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the route of the Smoky Hill Trail, an overland trail across the Great Plains during pioneer days in Kansas and Colorado, for study for potential addition to the National Trails System.

The Department supports S. 1083, if amended in accordance with this statement. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 37 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress. 

S. 1083 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of the route of the Smoky Hill Trail for consideration for inclusion in the National Trails System. The bill includes a prohibition on considering alternatives that might adversely affect private property rights. It also requires notification of private property owners of land that would be studied for the potential trail prior to the start of the study. The usual cost of this type of study is approximately $200,000 to $350,000. 

If the study results in the recommendation to designate a new National Historic Trail, and if Congress enacts that designation, the trail would join the network of scenic and historic trails that has been created since the enactment of the National Trails System Act in 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreational needs and the enjoyment and appreciation of historic resources which, in turn, promotes good health and well-being. They connect us to history and provide an important opportunity for local communities to become involved in a national effort by encouraging public access and citizen involvement.

The Smoky Hill Trail extended approximately 600 miles from Atchison and Leavenworth, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado, running parallel to the Smoky Hill River. After gold was discovered near Denver in 1859, thousands of gold diggers used the route to the Rocky Mountains. Homesteaders and soldiers also traveled the trail and, for five years, commercial stage coach companies maintained lines on the Smoky Hill Trail. Fort Downer, Fort Harker, Fort Monument, Fort Wallace and other stops provided protection and supplies for travelers.

The arrival of the Kansas-Pacific Railroad in Denver in 1870 signalled the end of the Smoky Hill Trail for long-distance travel.

In 1994, the National Park Service completed a study entitled "Special Report on Eight Kansas Forts." Five of the forts were located along the Smoky Hill Trail. The study recommended that further research for interpretation, resource protection, and management be carried out on the trails and connections between the forts. 

The Department's support for S. 1083 is contingent upon the deletion of sections 3 and 4. Section 3(a) specifies that certain requirements may not be contained in any alternatives considered under the study. This language is unnecessary as trail studies do not include alternatives that affect private property rights in the manner described in this subsection. Section 3(b) requires the study to include an analysis and documentation regarding whether each alternative proposed has potential or actual impact on private property within or abutting the trail area. This language is unnecessary because any potential impacts are covered through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, to which trail studies are subject.

Section 4 would require notification prior to conducting the study of all private property owners whose land would be studied. Trail studies, which are conducted by the National Park Service with local partners, are publicized within the affected communities. Study teams work hard to involve all interested parties in trail studies, and try to contact all affected property owners through the course of a study. However, it would be almost impossible to locate and contact the owner of every piece of property along approximately 600 miles of potential trail routes, and making the effort to do so would substantially increase the cost of the study and the time it would take to complete the study.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee might have.