STATEMENT OF STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING S. 1589, A BILL TO EXTEND THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE COASTAL HERITAGE TRAIL IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1589, a bill to extend the authorization for the Coastal Heritage Trail in the State of New Jersey.
The Department does not object to S. 1589, but notes that the National Park Service is no longer providing technical assistance since the authorization of funding expired on September 30, 2011. This bill would extend the trail's authorization to September 30, 2016.
Public Law 100-515 enacted on October 20, 1988, authorized the Secretary of the Interior to designate a vehicular tour route in coastal New Jersey and to prepare an inventory of sites along the route. An interpretive program was also mandated to provide for public appreciation, education, understanding and enjoyment of important fish and wildlife habitats, geologic and geographical landforms, cultural resources, and migration routes in coastal
The trail was envisioned as a partnership among the National Park Service (NPS), the State of New Jersey, and many local government and private non-profit partners. Through interpretation of five themes (Maritime History, Coastal Habitats, Wildlife Migration, Relaxation & Inspiration, and Historic Settlements), the trail brought attention to important natural and cultural resources along coastal New Jersey. The trail had a variety of accomplishments that have continued to provide enjoyment and education to visitors even after the trail's authorization expired including a wayside exhibit program, welcome center partnerships in several communities, a successful publications and brochure program, and a highway directional signage program. All of these accomplishments were the result of partnerships with state, local and other entities and helped meet the trail's core mission of natural and cultural resource preservation along with interpretation and public education in a cost-efficient manner through technical assistance while reducing operational responsibilities. No NPS funds were used for maintenance, repair, or operation of any road or road-related structure.
Prior to the expiration of the NPS authority for assistance for the trail in 2011, the NPS completed a strategic plan for the trail. The strategic plan identified four options for the continuance of the trail's mission: 1) No further NPS management of the trail after the sunset date of September 30, 2011; 2) Limited time for NPS management, in order to transition to a new management framework; 3) A new federal role for or within the trail project area; and 4) Permanent authorization for the trail. With the exception of option 1, all identified options required legislative action.
With the expiration of the trail authorization on September 30, 2011, the NPS moved forward with implementing option 1 from the strategic plan and commenced an orderly conclusion of NPS management of the trail. The NPS closed its trail office in Newport, New Jersey, relocated staff assigned to work on the trail to other NPS offices and ended direct NPS involvement in the operation of the trail. If assistance is reauthorized, the NPS does not intend to reopen its trail office, reassign staff to work on the trail or otherwise change its current management structure. The NPS would support the trail through the work of appropriate regional staff.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to answer any questions from members of the Committee.