S. 1620

Save the Liberty Theatre Act of 2021

STATEMENT OF JOY BEASLEY, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 1620, A BILL TO DIRECT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONVEY TO THE CITY OF EUNICE, LOUISIANA, CERTAIN FEDERAL LAND IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 OCTOBER 6, 2021

Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1620, a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey to the city of Eunice, Louisiana, certain Federal land in the state of Louisiana, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 1620.

S. 1620 would direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey to the city of Eunice, Louisiana, all right, title, and interest to the parcels of land generally depicted as “Proposed Disposal Area” on the map referenced in the legislation and comprised of a National Park Service (NPS) owned annex to a city owned building, the Liberty Theater.  Ownership of the annex would be conveyed to the City and the NPS would relinquish any interest.  The boundary of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve would be revised to exclude the annex. 

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (park) was established to preserve significant examples of the rich natural and cultural resources of Louisiana's Mississippi Delta region.  The park consists of six physically separate sites.  The sites include cultural centers in Lafayette, Thibodaux, and Eunice; the Chalmette Battlefield; Barataria Preserve; and the park's headquarters and visitor center located in New Orleans' French Quarter.  The Lafayette, Thibodaux, and Eunice cultural centers preserve and interpret examples of the Acadian culture of the area.  The Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery commemorate the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.  The Barataria Preserve interprets the culture of those who settled the area and the unique ecosystem that sustained them, and preserves a representative example of the Delta's environment, containing natural levee forests, bayous, swamps and marshes.

As the park’s mission and management responsibilities have grown in scope and size, the NPS has endeavored to work with local communities and identify opportunities to share resources and responsibilities while serving the mission of the agency.  In some instances, arrangements that were useful in the past have outgrown their utility and the related resources could better be directed elsewhere in the park.  

Public Law 100-250, signed into law in 1988, established the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center (PACC) in Eunice as a part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.  The Liberty Theater, a vaudeville and movie and performance venue constructed in 1924, is next door to the PACC.  In 1989, the park restored and rehabilitated the theater, constructed an adjoining annex for public health, safety and accessibility and installed a master HVAC system for the theater, annex and nearby PACC. 

The master HVAC system is now antiquated and beyond repair and must be replaced.  The park plans to replace the system in the PACC and the city of Eunice plans to install a new HVAC system in the theater.  Transferring ownership of the Liberty Theater annex to the city of Eunice would allow the city greater flexibility and autonomy in determining the appropriate approach to the theater’s HVAC needs while providing significant cost savings to the NPS and clarifying management responsibilities for both parties.  This change in ownership is supported locally by city officials. 

Chairman King, 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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