H.R. 4380

To designate the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS CONCERNING H.R. 4380, A BILL TO DESIGNATE THE EL PASO COMMUNITY HEALING GARDEN NATIONAL MEMORIAL, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 OCTOBER 14, 2021

Chairman Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 4380, a bill to designate the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial, and for other purposes.

The Department does not have a position on H.R. 4380, as the memorial would be located at a site that is not under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, and this bill does not provide for any management or funding by the National Park Service.  We would, however, ask the Subcommittee to note the consideration described below.

H.R. 4380 would designate the El Paso Community Healing Garden at El Paso County’s Ascarate Park as the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial.  On August 3, 2019, the El Paso Community suffered a devastating tragedy at the Cielo Vista Walmart when 23 innocent lives were lost in a mass shooting event that was racially motivated.  Many more were affected both physically and mentally. 

The memorial was constructed in time for the second anniversary of the event and was dedicated on August 3, 2019, to provide a healing space for the community.  Construction funding was provided by community donations and the County of El Paso.  The site is currently maintained by County Parks and Recreation Department as part of Ascarate Park.  The site was established as “a welcoming place for individuals and families to find comfort and an opportunity to embrace their individual healing process.”

This legislation explicitly states that this Memorial is not a unit of the National Park System and that designation should not be construed to require Federal funds to be expended for it.  However, the use of the title "National" creates a reasonable expectation among the general public that the memorial must have an affiliation with the Federal government.  The Department respectfully encourages the Committee to be thoughtful and judicious about conferring the designation of “National” to any site that is not associated with a National or Federal entity.

Chairman Neguse, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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