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Hampton Roads Shows Support for Ft. Monroe to Gain Park Designation

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  • July 20, 2011
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Hampton, Va. — Hundreds of residents showed up at the two hearings the National Park Service (NPS) held Tuesday in Hampton to gauge support for designating Fort Monroe a unit of the National Park system.

The high turnout in favor of making the 570-acre property located on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay a national park or monument likely cleared up any doubts as to the public’s stance on the issue, reported the Virginian-Pilot.

The Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority’s effort to designate the post a unit of the NPS system after the Army closes the historic post later this year seems to be gaining momentum.

Earlier this month, Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell (R) introduced legislation to accomplish that goal. The bill was co-sponsored by two of his Virginia colleagues, and has the support of the NPS, the Fort Monroe Authority and other local groups. The commonwealth’s two senators previously introduced similar legislation.

A more likely route to obtaining NPS designation, though, may be pursuing a presidential proclamation declaring the site a national monument, an action authorized under the Antiquities Act. That route would allow the authority to achieve its objective without waiting for Congress to act.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar — sent at the request of President Obama — visited Fort Monroe last month bearing encouraging tidings. The cabinet member was impressed with what he saw around the stone-and-water-moat fort and told the Virginian-Pilot editorial board the property could become a great urban national park.

“I don’t know that I’ve been to another place that has the history Fort Monroe has,” Salazar told the paper.

With the Sept. 15 milestone for the Army to shutter the post fast approaching, the Fort Monroe Authority is getting ready to manage and provide municipal services for the site, Executive Director Bill Armbruster told 360.

The transfer of the property from the Army will follow a separate timeline, however. The authority will gain some, but not all, of the property slated to revert to the commonwealth on Sept. 15, he said. Until it transfers the remainder of the property, the Army will assume the role of caretaker for those buildings it holds onto.

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