S.1347 Indian Affairs Legislation


OCTOBER 19, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior regarding S. 1347, a bill to establish Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, Connecticut, and for other purposes.

The Department supports enactment of S. 1347.

S. 1347 would authorize the establishment of a new unit of the National Park System at Coltsville in Hartford, Connecticut. The bill would provide for several conditions to be met before the Secretary may establish the park:

1. Donations of land or interests in land within the boundary of the park have been accepted;

2. A written agreement donating at least 10,000 square feet of space in the East Armory;

3. A written agreement ensuring future uses of land within the historic district are compatible with the park; and

4. Financial resources of the owners of private and public property within the boundary park are reviewed to ensure viability.

The legislation also authorizes agreements with other organizations for access to Colt-related artifacts to be displayed at the park and cooperative agreements with owners of properties within the historic district for interpretation, restoration, rehabilitation and technical assistance for preservation. It provides that any federal financial assistance would be matched on a one-to-one basis by non-federal funds.

S. 1347 also provides for the establishment of a commission to advise the Secretary on the development and implementation of a general management plan for the unit. The advisory commission would terminate ten years after the date of enactment of the legislation unless extended for another ten years by the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary).

The Secretary designated Coltsville Historic District a National Historic Landmark on July 22, 2008. The manufacturing complex and associated resources constitute the site of nationally important contributions to manufacturing technology by Samuel Colt and the industrial enterprise he founded in 1855 – Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company. It includes, among other resources, the armories where firearms and other products were made, the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt, Colt Park, and housing used by factory workers.

Samuel Colt is most renowned for developing a revolver design which revolutionized personal firearms. The Colt Peacemaker, a six-shot revolver, became known as "the gun that won the West." Colt was a major innovator in the "American System" of precision manufacturing, replacing the practice of individually crafting each component of a product with the use of interchangeable parts. After his death in 1862, his wife Elizabeth owned and directed the manufacturing complex for 39 years, becoming a major entrepreneur in an age when women rarely occupied positions of importance in manufacturing.

During both World War I and World War II, the Colt Firearms Company was one of the nation's leading small arms producers and made vital contributions to U.S. war efforts. The company applied its interchangeable-parts techniques to a wide variety of consumer products and the Colt complex became an "incubator" facility for other inventors and entrepreneurs. Coltsville is also noteworthy as a fully integrated industrial community that includes manufacturing facilities, employee housing, community buildings, and landscape features that were built largely under the personal direction of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt. Colt, whose labor practices were advanced for their time, attracted highly skilled laborers to his manufacturing enterprise.

Pursuant to Public Law 108-94, the Coltsville Study Act of 2003, the National Park Service (NPS) conducted a special resource study of the resources associated with the Coltsville Historic District. Based on Coltsville's National Historic Landmark designation in 2008, the study concluded that Coltsville meets the national significance criterion. An analysis of comparability to other units of the national park system and resources protected by others demonstrated that Coltsville is suitable for designation as a unit of the national park system. The study was unable, however, to conclude that Coltsville was feasible to administer at that time due to the lengthy duration of financial issues surrounding the site. In concert with the lack of feasibility, the study was also unable to determine the need for NPS management, or specifically what the NPS would manage.

S. 1347 addresses concerns the Department expressed concerning financial issues and questions involving ownership and financing of the Coltsville properties. The special resource study did not conclude that the site absolutely failed to meet feasibility criteria or require NPS management, but rather that that it did not meet feasibility criterion with the circumstances present at the time of the study and that it was impossible to determine, at that time, the need for NPS management of the site. In both cases, the uncertainty of public access and financial viability of the financial developer of the privately owned portion of the site were at issue.

Since the time of the study, much progress has occurred at Coltsville that holds significant promise for the future of the site and preservation of the resources. During a recent visit to the Coltsville property, the Secretary noted the progress made in the area since the study was completed, while stating that, "Coltsville again promises to be an economic engine, producing jobs and spurring growth in the Hartford area." Significant re-development has already begun. Several of the buildings have been rehabilitated and are occupied as educational facilities, residential housing, and businesses. Negotiations are underway between the developer and the city on an agreement for the East Armory building, which would serve as the focal point for park visitors. We have been advised the plan has designated benchmarks for the project as well as projected funding for the development.

Under S. 1347, the park unit could not be established until the Secretary is satisfied that adequate public access to the site and its financial viability are assured. The authority to review the financial resources of public and private property owners associated with the project is unprecedented in similar park establishment legislation. We believe that these conditions will assure the park is established only when the development is moving forward and the public will have the ability to learn about the manufacturing process that took place at the site. A 2008 Visitor Experience Study developed a range of visitor service alternatives identifying potential operating costs for a very minimal operation estimated at $720,000 to a more robust operation of $9.3 million. If a park were established, a comprehensive planning process would assess the actual needs for visitor services and staffing, further defining the park's operational budget. In addition, there could be significant Federal costs in providing financial assistance to restore or rehabilitate the properties, as authorized in Section 4(c)(1). All funding would be subject to NPS priorities and the availability of appropriations.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be glad to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.

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