A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Secretary Salazar Examines Options for Re-Opening Crown In Visit to Statue of Liberty
Discusses Safety and Access Issues with Congressional Delegation
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar inspects the stairway to the crown of Lady Liberty during his visit to the statue. [Photo Credit: Tami Heilemann, DOI-NBC]
NEW YORK HARBOR, NY—Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today toured the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island to assess safety and accessibility issues at the national park sites in New York Harbor. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) accompanied the Secretary.
“The Statue of Liberty is unique among our national parks as a symbol of freedom not only to Americans but also to people around the world,” Secretary Salazar said. “As a U.S. Senator and now as Secretary of the Interior, I believe the crown should be re-opened to the public if at all possible. I am here today to tour the statue and promise to work hard with the National Park Service to explore all feasible alternatives to reopening it.”
“We will explore all opportunities to re-open the crown while reducing risk to the public,” the Secretary emphasized. “I hope we can find a way. It would proclaim to the world – both figuratively and literally – that the path to the light of liberty is open to all.”
The Secretary also visited Ellis Island. Following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the National Park Service closed both the statue and Ellis Island to visitors. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum and Liberty Island were reopened on Dec. 20, 2001. The National Park Service conducted additional health and safety evaluations of both Liberty Island and the statue. After significant modifications to the pedestal and the addition of screening for visitors, access to the pedestal was re-opened in 2004. The crown, however, has remained closed.
The primary reason for the closure has been concern about the health and safety of visitors. The crown is accessible only by a narrow 168-step double-helix spiral staircase. The Park Service, which has responsibility to keep visitors safe and make it possible for them to evacuate in the event of an emergency, deemed the risk too high to re-open the crown to the public.
In 2008 Senator Salazar joined Senator Menendez and other Members of Congress in asking the National Park Service to conduct a study to determine what physical changes would be required to bring the statue's interior into compliance with safety and fire codes. If compliance is not possible, the study must determine how the National Park Service could minimize the safety risks to visitors, staff and emergency personnel.
A contract was awarded to Hughes Associates, a firm based in Baltimore, to conduct the study. The final report, expected mid-April 2009, will evaluate potential alternatives and cost estimates for accommodating public access in the statue's interior up to and including the crown.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service is working to establish an integrated alternative transportation system among the parks in the area to significantly enhance visitor access and experience.