Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Virginia that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands and create travel, tourism and outdoor recreation jobs across the country.
Historic preservation at Fort Monroe and expansion of access to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the natural world.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Bob McDonnell and the state of Virginia, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Virginia and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Virginia highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort in Hampton have played significant roles in America's history, dating back to the arrival of the first English colonists. Settlers of Jamestown built a fort at the site in 1609, and the first enslaved Africans in America arrived at the fort in 1619.
Over two centuries later, Fort Monroe was the site of Gen. Benjamin Butler's 1861 “Contraband Decision,” during the Civil War. That action provided a pathway to freedom for thousands of enslaved people who reached the fort. In part it was also a forerunner to President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Fort Monroe and environs played important parts in both the beginning and end of slavery in America. The fort was an active Army post until Sept.15, 2011.
The local community and a bipartisan group of elected state officials, including the governor, local congressional delegation, and both senators, favor creating a national park to preserve these important lands and their history. Virginia proposes to develop, in concert with the National Park Service, a first-class historic and natural destination that integrates significant youth education focused on both environmental and outdoor recreation. The proposal would stabilize the walls and moat around the fort, enhance water access to Chesapeake Bay, and develop a youth-training initiative. Virginia also proposes to restore natural landscapes and habitat along the bayfront for waterfowl.
With its proximity to Newport News and Norfolk, Fort Monroe provides a close-to-home outdoor space for urban residents of the area, aligning with AGO goals.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail follows the historic water routes of Smith's travels. The trail stretches about 3,000 miles through parts of present-day Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, and connects with 16 national wildlife refuges, 12 national park areas, and three national trails. It offers opportunities for tourism, environmental and cultural education, conservation, and recreation.
This multi-dimensional utility makes the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail a model for a new system of National Blueway Trails. The Commonwealth of Virginia is actively participating in the development of the trail and seeks to collaborate with the National Park Service to enhance access to the trail and to develop and improve interpretive signage. Virginia plans to work with nonprofit groups to improve access to connecting trails as well.
The report will also include potential action by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Virginia, for example, the department can provide technical and financial assistance to expand recreation access to the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail and to develop interpretative signage for the state's part of it. The department will also work to designate the entire multi-state trail as National Blueway Trail. While Interior cannot commit to federal financial support for the projects identified in the report due to budgetary constraints, Secretary Salazar is committed to doing everything possible to advance each project in the coming year through whatever means available.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally-driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.