STATEMENT OF STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING S. 1191, TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT A STUDY OF THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING THE NAUGATUCK RIVER VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN CONNECTICUT, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
March 7, 2012
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1191, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of the suitability and feasibility of establishing the Naugatuck River Valley National Heritage Area in Connecticut, and for other purposes.
The Department supports enactment of S. 1191. However, we feel that priority should be given to the 36 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 Congress.
In addition, the Department continues to recommend that Congress enact program legislation for national heritage area studies and designations.There are currently 49 designated national heritage areas, yet there is no authority in law that guides the designation and administration of these areas.Program legislation would provide a much-needed framework for evaluating proposed national heritage areas, offering guidelines for successful planning and management, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all parties, and standardizing timeframes and funding for designated areas.We recommend that Congress enact this legislation during this Congress.
The proposed study area includes a part of Connecticut following the Naugatuck River Valley between Torrington and Shelton in the counties of Litchfield and New Haven. The Naugatuck River Valley contains a collection of historic and natural resources relating to the industrial, intellectual, political, and architectural heritage of the United States.The proposed study area includes numerous properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and three National Historic Landmarks: the Litchfield National Historic Landmark District; the Tapping Reeve House and Law School, which was the first law school in the United States; and the Oliver Wolcott House, which was the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Many of the fourteen communities identified in the bill are prototypical New England mill towns that represent one of the main manufacturing centers of the nation during the 19th and 20th centuries and a crucial hub of industrial innovation. The valley's principal industries were rubber (Charles Goodyear developed the rubber vulcanization process here), brass (first developed in the valley), and clock making.The story of the immigrants who worked in these industries and contributed to the cultural mosaic of the country is equally compelling.The river flows for over forty miles through landscapes of historical importance to our nation.
The proposed study area has extensive recreational resources in place or under development, including the Naugatuck River Greenway, the Derby Greenway, and the Steele Brooke Greenway. Through the efforts of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the support of the local communities, considerable progress has been made to restore water quality along the length of the proposed study area.It is an area worthy of study for potential designation as a national heritage area.