STATEMENT OF STEVE WHITESELL,
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS,
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON
NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS
OF THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
CONCERNING H.R. 3726,
A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE CASTLE NUGENT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE,
AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
November 17, 2009
Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3726, a bill to establish the Castle Nugent National Historic Site, and for other purposes.
H.R. 3726 would establish as a unit of the National Park System the Castle Nugent National Historic Site, a historic agricultural site on the
The proposed Castle Nugent National Historic Site is located along the arid southeastern
The National Park Service was directed to conduct a special resource study of the Castle Nugent site by Public Law 109-317.The study began in 2007 and is nearing completion. The NPS draft study has found that the site meets the NPS's criteria for addition to the National Park System, and that the proposal to designate it as part of the National Park System enjoys strong local support.
The Castle Nugent site represents a nationally significant cultural landscape that provides a glimpse into the historic development of
The centerpiece of the site is the historic Castle Nugent estate, which is an excellent example of an eighteenth century Danish cotton estate and the most intact plantation within the proposed boundary.This complex includes a large estate house dating to the 1730's, a rare cotton house that is believed to be the last of its kind standing on St. Croix, and the remains of two slave row houses, among other historic buildings.Cultural resources discovered on the grounds include pottery shards and other artifacts left over from either slave shanties or Arawak Indian campsites.
Enactment of H.R. 3726 would provide the opportunity to preserve and protect this outstanding Caribbean cultural landscape and interpret the cotton era and related agricultural themes that have been instrumental in the development of St. Croix and the
The Castle Nugent site also contains abundant natural resources which would be protected by establishing the proposed national historic site. The eastern end is dominated by Great Pond, which is the second largest salt pond in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the most important wetland on the
One of the largest and healthiest fringing coral reef systems in the region lies just a few hundred feet offshore. The St. Croix coral reef system is one of the best developed systems in the
The Castle Nugent site has a longstanding association with cattle ranching. Under an agreement between the property owners and the University of the Virgin Islands, large sections of the site are still used to raise and breed Senepol cattle, a special hybrid breed that was developed on
Public sentiment has been overwhelmingly in support of creating a national park unit at Castle Nugent. As part of the special resource study, the NPS conducted public meetings to present management alternatives in June, 2009. The NPS received over 300 comments in favor of establishing a national park unit and only one comment in opposition. A recurring point made in comments was the outstanding opportunity the Castle Nugent site offers to preserve an important remnant of the island's agricultural heritage. Other comments emphasized the site's unobstructed vistas from the hills to the sea as increasingly rare on
We estimate that the cost to acquire the 2,900 acres of land at Castle Nugent, which are in private ownership, would be $40 to $50 million. Over half of this acreage is owned by a single family whose members have been enthusiastic supporters for preservation of the site.The estimated cost for annual operations and maintenance would be approximately $750,000; the NPS would benefit from administrative efficiencies due to the presence of a NPS operation at nearby Christiansted National Historic Site. Development needs and their costs have not yet been determined.The site's needs for resource protection, visitor services, and other operational needs would be determined through a general management plan, which would cost an estimated $600,000 to $700,000. All funds would be subject to NPS priorities and the availability of appropriations.
We recommend two technical amendments to H.R. 3726:
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the Subcommittee may have.