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).
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, VISITOR AND RESOURCE PROTECTION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,
COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,
CONCERNING H.R. 1836,
TO AMEND THE ACQUISITION AUTHORITY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
OF VISITOR AND ADMINISTRATIVE FACILITIES
AT WEIR FARM NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT.
OCTOBER 30, 2007
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 1836, a bill to amend the Weir Farm National Historic Site Establishment Act of 1990, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 1836.
H.R. 1836 would amend the Weir Farm National Historic Site Establishment Act of 1990 (as amended by Public Law 105-363) to expand the geographic area in which the park could acquire up to 15 acres to develop visitor and administrative facilities. Public Law 105-363 required that the acquisition be "in close proximity or contiguous to the park." Furthermore, by requiring a planning agreement with the towns of Ridgefield and Wilton, Connecticut before building a facility, Public Law 105-363 appears to authorize land acquisition only within these two towns. H.R. 1836 would expand the National Park Service's authority so that it can consider the acquisition of property in all of Fairfield County, Connecticut, including a building in nearby Redding, Connecticut, that the park has leased for over 13 years for park curatorial and maintenance functions. This expanded authority would reduce the cost of building support facilities and would address concerns that local towns have expressed about the location of administrative facilities in residential neighborhoods.
Weir Farm National Historic Site was established on October 31, 1990 to preserve the historic structures and landscapes associated with American Impressionist artist Julian Alden Weir. The park's authorizing legislation identifies one of the park's purposes as "to maintain the integrity of a setting that inspired artistic expression." In keeping with this purpose, the park's 1995 General Management Plan determined that all administrative and operational support functions should be located in off-site facilities. In 1998, Public Law 105-363 authorized a boundary expansion of up to 15 acres, and in 2000, the National Park Service purchased nine acres in the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut under this authority.
Public Law 105-363 required the National Park Service to enter into agreement with the towns of Ridgefield and Wilton, Connecticut, prior to building a facility. During discussions, concerns were raised about locating a 10,000 square foot facility in a residential neighborhood. In addition, cost estimates for building a facility on the newly acquired property had increased from $3.4 million to $5.9 million.
To address local concerns and rising costs, the National Park Service would like to consider alternative sites, including space at the Georgetown Wire Mill (Mill), a 55-acre brownfield development site listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located less than 2 miles from the park, in the town of Redding, Connecticut. Currently, the park leases 5,000 square feet of curatorial and maintenance space at the Mill. S. 1247 would allow the park to acquire 12,000 square feet of finished space at the Wire Mill in exchange for all or part of the nine acres acquired by the park in Ridgefield, Connecticut. This acquisition would reduce construction, operating, and maintenance costs for the park. Since the National Park Service would use all or part of the nine acres currently owned to exchange for the space at Georgetown Wire Mill, no acquisition funds are required. If appraisals indicate that the Georgetown Land Corporation (Corporation) building exceeds the value of the National Park Service land, the Corporation has agreed to donate the difference to the National Park Service.
Environmental sustainability would be another benefit of the Mill site. Within the next two years, the Mill is expected to be certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) village center with residential and commercial services and subsidies for artist housing.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee might have.