Shown above is the master plan that would develop most of the Wherry Quarter, forever separating the two parts of Fort Monroe National Monument. Please read the editorials below and follow the National Parks Conservation Association link to send a message to the Governor to revise the plan to unify the two parts of Fort Monroe National Monument.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial, January 3, 2014
Make Fort Monroe a state priority
DURING his campaign for governor, Terry McAuliffe pledged to help protect Fort Monroe. He needs to make it a priority early in his term.
For starters, McAuliffe can lend his support to outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to budget roughly $13 million for the property over the next three years, plus an additional $22.5 million in bonding authority to pay for much-needed repairs to roads, buildings and utility systems.
From there, McAuliffe needs to address critical flaws in plans for preserving the historic fort – specifically, the fate of an area known as the Wherry Quarter.
When President Barack Obama declared a large portion of the historic fort a national monument in 2011, the arrangement left Wherry and its swath of green space in the protection of the state.
Since then, however, the state panel in charge of managing roughly 240 acres of the 565-acre property has approved a master plan that allows new residential construction in the Wherry Quarter.
The plan runs contrary to overwhelming public sentiment in favor of leaving the core of the Wherry area as open space until the National Park Service can someday incorporate it into the national monument.
Last month, McDonnell signed off on the master plan – with advice to the Fort Monroe Authority to “continue to work with all interested parties to mitigate any unnecessary negative impact on the historical attributes” of the property.
Some supporters of the master plan, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, contend that the Wherry can be developed in a compatible manner that will help accelerate restoration elsewhere on the property.
But it’s a short-sighted, overly optimistic view that McAuliffe and his cabinet – including Molly Ward, the state’s new secretary of natural resources – need to reassess promptly.
Ward knows better than anyone the critical role that the Wherry Quarter plays in the future of Fort Monroe. She was mayor of Hampton when she helped lead the drive for Obama to declare the fort a national monument.
The McAuliffe administration needs to step up discussions with the White House and the National Park Service about completing the job at Fort Monroe and incorporating Wherry into the monument.
The fate of the property should be addressed now, before the inevitable day when someone introduces a development proposal for the Wherry Quarter.
Fort Monroe’s rich history – particularly its role as a safe harbor for slaves seeking refuge at the start of the Civil War – must remain at the forefront of federal and state plans for the property. Intense residential development in the Wherry Quarter would degrade the vision that residents of Hampton Roads and beyond have embraced for the fort.
Fort Monroe, as McAuliffe said during a visit there in 2011, is a “historic gem.” It can become a tourist attraction and education center as well known as Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. But achieving that goal will require proper care and planning.
So far, those efforts at the state and federal levels are still far short of what’s needed.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial, October 14, 2013
Fix the plan for Fort Monroe
Fort Monroe National Monument could become one of the region’s – and the nation’s -premier tourist attractions, education centers and recreation areas. Or it could become a place where future generations gather and ask, “What the devil were they thinking?”
The question, specifically, would be directed at a mix of 720 houses, townhouses and
apartments that state officials are now contemplating for the historic property on the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2005, federal officials targeted the long-time Army post in Hampton for closure,
setting off an extended debate over what should be done with the land. Some saw the
565-acre property as a tremendous development opportunity, and others – many others, here and around America – saw the need to preserve the fort and its rich and unusual history.
Ultimately, a compromise was struck. Just under two years ago, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing a national monument, with 325 acres to be managed by the National Park Service.
The remainder of the fort was placed in the trust of a state panel, the Fort Monroe Authority. Soon after, it hired consultants to craft a master plan for managing Virginia’s portion of the land.
The oft-stated goal of park advocates was a plan similar to The Presidio, a historic Army post that’s now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Under this vision, historic buildings at Fort Monroe would be adapted for new revenue-generating uses; limited, compatible development would be sought for other sections of the property.
But the now-completed master plan, subject to approval by the authority Oct. 24, has
renewed controversy over the best way to preserve Fort Monroe and tell its story to Americans. Gov. Bob McDonnell has the final say.
The plan would allow 250 residences and a 160,000-square-foot “hospitality” development in an area known as the Wherry Quarter. Consultants also proposed
converting existing buildings to another 400 residential units and building more than 450 elsewhere on the property.
At the heart of the dispute is the fact that the Wherry Quarter lies between two separate
portions of the national monument.
During multiple planning sessions – and well before the president signed his executive order – regional leaders and residents made abundantly clear their desire to protect the Wherry Quarter as open space until it could be added to the National Park Service’s holdings. That would unite the two parts of the monument.
That won’t happen if houses, apartments and townhouses are built there. Development also could shut off potentially valuable archaeological research.
Numerous groups – the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Trust, the National Parks Conservation Association, Virginia
Coastal Access Now, among others – are objecting to the development plan.
They’re joined by Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, a local group that was a catalyst for protecting the fort. Also opposed is Skip Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch, who points out that Wherry Quarter – already vulnerable to flooding – will be hit hard by sea level rise in coming years.
State officials are striving to make Virginia’s portion of the land self-sustaining. An
estimated $10 million or more a year is needed to maintain and operate the state’s portion, according to the authority. Officials also say the state is facing at least $13 million worth of water and sewer improvements.
The state’s focus on generating revenue is commendable. But the National Park Service’s presence is barely established, and it’s premature to measure the monument’s
effects on the local economy – and the state’s holdings – until it is fully operational.
What’s getting lost is why the land was preserved in the first place – and the potential for
it to become as much a part of this region’s national identity as Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.
Fort Monroe’s story spans four centuries and includes Capt. John Smith, Chief Black Hawk, Harriet Tubman and other transformative figures in American history.
But the most compelling part of the fort’s story involves the beginning – and the beginning of the end – of slavery.
In 1619, the first slave ship arrived in the British colonies at what was then known as Old Point Comfort. More than two centuries later, three slaves – Shepard Mallory,
Frank Baker and James Townsend – took steps at Fort Monroe that would help
vanquish slavery. At the start of the Civil War, the three men sought refuge at the fort, and a Union general refused to return them to their owner.
Those events set off the exodus of more than 10,000 slaves to “Freedom’s Fortress”
and helped lay the groundwork for the Emancipation Proclamation.
If incompatible development is allowed at Fort Monroe, the power of that story will be
Visitors and potential donors would tour the moated fortress, visit a museum and look out across the bay – to where it all began – and see a housing development.
That’s not acceptable. The authority should reject the master plan and ask its staff to
draft an alternative that leaves open the Wherry Quarter.
Instead of pursuing intensive development, state officials – including McDonnell, the
General Assembly and members of Virginia’s congressional delegation – should be
seeking federal assistance for upgrading the fort’s utility systems. This would
significantly ease the authority’s financial problems.
Likewise, the who’s who of American preservation groups opposed to developing the Wherry Quarter should step forward with firm offers of financial aid to help preserve the
The Fort Monroe Authority and McDonnell face a critical question. If they answer it
incorrectly, a national treasure will be squandered – and generations of Americans will be left to wonder why.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial, October 31, 2013
Governor should protect Wherry
The issueThe Fort Monroe plan would allow too much development between portions of the federal monument.
Where we stand The state’s plan will do considerable damage to a national treasure.
Amid the speculation about what deeds and misdeeds will shape Gov. Bob McDonnell’s legacy, one item draws little attention but likely will be associated with his name for generations – Fort Monroe.
Two years ago, when President Barack Obama declared a large portion of the historic fort a national monument, the governor was among the celebrants. He and others had lobbied the president for the designation a few weeks earlier when they met in Hampton.
“This was a grassroots campaign that started with the great citizens of Hampton Roads, whose passion and determination never wavered,” McDonnell said after the president announced the designation. “They sought to see Fort Monroe, with its critical role in the history of America, take its rightful place for all time as a monument to our nation’s history.”
He was right. When the Army installation was targeted for closure in 2005, many in our region and around the nation rallied for preservation of the 565-acre fort on the Chesapeake Bay.
This grassroots movement recognized Fort Monroe’s immense potential as a tourist attraction, education center and recreation area. They recognized what would be lost if its rich history – particularly the powerful story of three slaves whose flight to freedom helped set the stage for the Emancipation Proclamation – were converted to waterfront condos.
McDonnell now has an opportunity to advance the plans envisioned by those citizens – or to cement, quite literally, Fort Monroe’s future in the wrong way.
A state panel, the Fort Monroe Authority, adopted a master plan for the state’s roughly 240-acre share of the property last week. The plan is now headed to the governor for final approval – or revision.
A major part of the plan, calling for renovation and reuse of historic buildings at the fort, draws no objection. Nor is there much concern about new residential development compatible with those buildings.
But there is substantial opposition to plans for 250 residences and a 160,000-square-foot “hospitality” development in an area known as the Wherry Quarter.
Citizens, here and around the nation, have repeatedly spoken up for leaving Wherry – which lies between two sections of the national monument – as open space until the federal government is ready to secure the land. The hope is that Wherry will be incorporated into the national monument and, eventually, a national park.
Proponents of the master plan believe it’s the best option for accelerating the preservation of the historic buildings and generating revenue for the state to maintain its share of the land.
But the plan, as presented, is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too model.
You can’t preserve the Wherry Quarter if you clear the way for construction of high-density development on it. You can’t fulfill the vision set out by “the great citizens of Hampton Roads” if you’re relying on – as this plan does – a mere 100-yard strip of green space to serve as the link between the two portions of the national monument.
Gov. McDonnell now has a chance to reset expectations, to return the planning process to its original goal. He should express support for portions of the plan that facilitate renovation – and flatly reject massive new construction on the Wherry Quarter.
Fort Monroe – like Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown before it – is a national treasure in the making.
This plan will unmake it. The governor has an opportunity, right now, to prevent that from happening.
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219To send e-mail, go to: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm
CFMNP believes that the core of the Wherry Quarter, the approximately 50 acres that separate the two parts of Fort Monroe National Monument, and that contain no historic structures, must be turned into green space and eventually transferred to the Monument. This will have a number of important effects. It will strengthen the National Park Service brand by expanding and uniting the Monument. It will provide striking views from the north side of the old fortress to the shorelines and vice versa, enhancing Fort Monroe’s historic ambiance. It will prevent new construction in Wherry that would diminish Fort Monroe’s two basic appeals to visitors: historic architecture and natural beauty. It will create a unified, seamless grand public place that will attract not only tourists and local repeat visitors to the site but also anchor tenants to the historic buildings and businesses that value a high quality of life to the region. We also think that the south waterfront, the location of batteries Irwin and Parrott, should be transferred to the Monument for safekeeping.
Citizens have repeatedly and strongly indicated their preference for public open space and landscape preservation and restoration for all the lands north and east of the fortress at Fort Monroe, going back to the first public charettes in 2006. In recent months their wishes have been echoed by a number of organizations and public entities, beginning with a Hampton City Council resolution calling for a Wherry park that complements the goals of the National Monument.
Click on the links here to read the many statements of support for a green Wherry. These include:
and letters to the Fort Monroe Authority from:
Virginia Association for Parks
We also encourage you to read the letter from the Trust for Public Land and follow the link on that page to the TPL study on parkland in Hampton Roads. Excerpts from the report are on this website at Trust for Public Land Study.
The first of the stated Fort Monroe Authority goals, “preserve the place”, has unfortunately been thus far interpreted in a cramped fashion by FMA planners, limiting preservation to historic buildings while treating Wherry as a potential development site. CFMNP urges a plan that indeed preserves the place, including its landscape. A big preservation vision will provide a more complete and appealing National Monument and a more financially successful and valuable Fort Monroe as a whole.
Any projects planned for Fort Monroe had better be in line with the historic beauty of the site, said Adam Baacke, Lowell’s planning and development director. “The national park reinforces this virtuous cycle that this is a special place because of the park,” he said, “and creating a beautiful area around it only enforces the belief that it is a special place.” –”Looking for Lessons in a Massachusetts Mill Town,” Daily Press, Dec. 26, 2012
Make the national monument a priority
By Mark Perreault
7:25 p.m. EDT, March 26, 2013
In November, 2011, President Obama, at the bipartisan behest of
Virginia’s Congressional delegation, designated parts of Fort Monroe a National Monument: 244
acres of mostly natural lands and a National Park Service (NPS) easement around
the fortress. This was a terrific step in the in right direction, and a
testimony to the vision of the Fort Monroe Authority. Unfortunately, it left a
space between the Monument areas. Why? Some in positions of authority say the
NPS balked at taking additional Fort Monroe property; others with an equal
claim to knowing the inside story say Virginia was unwilling to relinquish this
piece of prime real estate along the Bay.
However it happened, there is now a
growing consensus that the key acreage dividing the Monument–known as the
Wherry Quarter–should be largely turned into parkland. New construction
between the two parts of the Monument would diminish the sense of the past and
overall beauty that imbues the historic structures and the natural landscapes.
Gazing from the north battlements of the fortress at a 21st century
neighborhood, or walking, biking or driving past new homes or an office park to
enter Monument parkland, will provide far less than an optimum experience of
Fort Monroe for visitors.
To put the matter more positively, a
green Wherry core will help to draw visitors and their money to Phoebus and all of Hampton in this time of
declining military presence. Financial sustainability of the state managed Fort
Monroe lands is achievable, without developing the Wherry core, by (i) a
combination of cost reduction efforts through shifting costs to private
residents and other tenants at Fort Monroe, and in time to the National Park
Service, (ii) more residential development in the areas to the south and west
of Wherry, particularly the North Gate, and (iii) continued but gradually
diminishing help from the state (perhaps augmented by a one-time capital
infusion for infrastructure), in recognition of the public benefits Fort Monroe
provides the state and region (including the benefits
provided by any public facilities to locate on
Fort Monroe). And if the Wherry core is eventually incorporated into the
Monument, along with Batteries Irwin and Parrott on the south waterfront, the
National Monument can become a gem of the National Park system, and thereby
help attract national and international tourists (as well as many locals).
Since the 2005 base closure
announcement the citizens of Hampton Roads have consistently
indicated their preference for as much green space as possible at Fort Monroe.
Now their voices have been joined by those of many preservation and
conservation organizations. National Parks Conservation Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation,
Chesapeake Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Virginia
Conservation Network, Virginia Coastal Access Now, Coast Defense Study Group,
Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and the James River Association have all
recommended a green Wherry, and most have also encouraged its eventual
inclusion in the National Monument (for their full statements, go to
fortmonroecitizens.org, where you can also see a video on the issue titled
“Preserve the Place”).
The National Parks Conservation
Association, 780,000 members and supporters strong, had this to say in a recent
letter addressed to Terrie Suit, Chair of the FMA: “Given Fort Monroe’s
compelling–truly unique–history, and Old Point Comfort’s setting amidst
Virginia’s largest urban population whose demand for open space will only
increase, the future course for the FMA is clear. We urge the FMA to protect
the 72 acres of the Wherry Quarter as green space managed consistently with the
goals and values of Fort Monroe National Monument.”
Moreover, the city of Hampton, once
a strong advocate for development at the historic site, passed a unanimous
resolution last summer calling for significant green space in Wherry with any
development there being “complementary to the National Park Service plans
such as that which is limited to tourism, hospitality, recreation and open
It is time for the FMA to adjust its
priorities a tad. It should make the creation of a Wherry park, and eventual
unification of the National Monument, a key objective, as essential to its
mission as the preservation of the fortress or the historic buildings. Given
the commitment and initiative of its advisors, planners, board members, staff
and director, Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park is confident that it can
do so without sacrificing any of its other objectives.
Perreault is President, Citizens for
a Fort Monroe National Park
Preserving the Wherry Quarter
The issueThe state’s property at Fort Monroe is being considered for limited development.
Where we stand The General Assembly was clear that the state property should be added to the new National Park.
©November 9, 2012
The next steps at Fort Monroe
Posted to: Guest ColumnsOpinion
By Scott Butler
© November 6, 2012
Representatives of the Fort Monroe Authority have time and again offered three general goals for shaping the future of the state-owned parts of the historic site – preserve the property, tell the story and achieve economic independence.
The first two goals imply that Fort Monroe should exist primarily for the public’s enjoyment and enlightenment. Otherwise, why not bulldoze the historic buildings, replace them with new construction and forget about interpreting the fort’s remarkable history?
These goals suggest a more encompassing one – enhance Fort Monroe’s character as a grand public place. In light of this larger goal, the property in “preserve the property” should include its natural landscape.
Certainly, the public thinks so. Over the last five years, every index of public opinion about Fort Monroe – from informal newspaper polls to the 7,000 signers of a Hampton petition to the 1,300 signers of a regional survey – has shown overwhelming support not only for historic preservation but also for as much green space as possible. (For evidence, visit www.fortmonroecitizens.org and click on the “power points” link).
The third goal, economic independence, obviously should not be attained at the expense of the other two goals – that is, at the expense of a grand public place. Nor does it have to be.
The FMA can generate revenue in a variety of ways that don’t compromise its overall mission. It can lease or sell the historic residences and buildings (with rigorous preservation standards in place), develop the industrial North Gate area next to the historic village and bring in tourism income from kayak rentals, weddings, audio headset tours, parking, modest annual fees for local visitors, large-scale outdoor events and so on.
What it cannot do without undermining its mission is develop the main section of the Wherry Quarter, an area of approximately 50 acres on the Chesapeake Bay that lies between the two parts of the Fort Monroe National Monument.
A developed Wherry would fragment the sense of public space and diminish Fort Monroe’s natural beauty and historic ambience. A Wherry Park, on the other hand, would help Fort Monroe achieve its full potential as a great urban park and a national and international destination.
Sasaki Associates, a consulting firm hired by the FMA to develop a plan for the state-owned property, has proposed several alternative visions of Wherry, most of which show a mix of development and green space.
Sasaki’s assumption would seem to be that park space, while nice for the public, means lost revenue. Even if this were true, maximizing revenue has never been the FMA’s intention. Both FMA Executive Director Glenn Oder and FMA Chairwoman Terrie Suit have said the FMA’s concern is that Fort Monroe becomes self-sustaining, not that it makes a profit.
But there is good reason to believe that a Wherry Park would have a positive economic impact.
Following low points in 2008-09, tourism revenue in Virginia is on the rise: $20 billion in 2011, an 8 percent increase over the previous year. A green Wherry would boost Fort Monroe’s appeal to tourists and therefore tourism revenue for the FMA and – no less importantly – for Hampton and the region.
Moreover, Virginia’s national park sites contributed $493 million to local economies in 2010 and presumably added even more in 2011.
Incorporating Wherry Park into the existing national monument (along with the Irwin and Parrott batteries on the south waterfront) would strengthen Fort Monroe’s National Park Service brand, so attractive to tourists, and further stimulate tourism revenue.
To remain faithful to its own goals for Fort Monroe, provide citizens with the grand public place they desire and turn the site into an economic engine for Hampton and the region, the Fort Monroe Authority must make the creation of Wherry Park a top priority.
Scott Butler, a member of the board of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, lives in Newport News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Group Moves Toward Fort Monroe Goal
Robert Brauchle, Hampton Neighborhood Section of Daily Press, October 18, 2012, page 2
Q: What are some of the efforts the Citizens are doing to accomplish their goal of expanding the National Park Service monument area? First, a word about our goal. Fort Monroe National Monument is split into two parts by an area called the Wherry Quarter. We want to add 50 or so continuous acres of Wherry to the Monument, plus Batteries Irwin and Parrott and the land they occupy along the south waterfront. Why? To begin with, development in this area would simply be wrong. As the president of Trust for Public Land says of a similar situation, “It’s like putting a fast food chain in the middle of the National Mall.” Also, these additions to the Monument will preserve Fort Monroe’s historic ambience, enhance its recreational appeal, and strengthen the National Park Service brand–all of which will help attract visitors and thus create a permanent revenue stream for Fort Monroe and the region. What’s at issue is vision. The state needs a broader vision of Fort Monroe’s significance as a grand public place.
As to our efforts, CFMNP has been actively working to demonstrate to the Fort Monroe Authority (FMA) and its planners, Sasaki, that this expansion is the desire of the vast majority of citizens. The public’s desire has shown itself, time and again, at public meetings, on the Sasaki participatory website, and by 98% of those completing a survey in which over 1300 citizens have voted their preferences thus far. We also continue to make our case to the FMA that preservation of these properties is the best choice for both cultural and economic reasons.
Q: Are there specific state or federal representatives people should contact to lobby for that extended monument area? For now, we suggest limiting your advocacy to the state level. Please tell the state officials below that the 50 acres of Wherry between the Monument areas plus the south waterfront containing batteries Irwin and Parrott should be preserved from development and slated for inclusion in Fort Monroe National Monument:
Glenn Oder Executive Director, Fort Monroe Authority Old Quarters #1 151 Bernard Road
Fort Monroe, VA 23651 Telephone: 757-251-2748 E-mail: http://www.fmauthority.com/contact-us
Governor Bob McDonnell Office of the Governor Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor 1111 East Broad Street Richmond, Virginia 23219 Telephone: (804) 786-2211
E-mail the Governor at http://www.governor.virginia.gov (click on “Contact us.”)
Your state Senator and House of Delegates member. For the district containing
Fort Monroe, these would be Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Gordon Helsel. For contact information, go to http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and click on the link in the FAQ answer to “How do I contact my legislator?”
You can also make your views known on the Sasaki website when it opens again in the next few days: http://ideas.fmauthority.com
Once these properties are designated by Virginia for preservation and addition to the National Monument, the time will be right to approach Congress and/or the President to seek authority to add these 60-65 acres (much of Wherry plus the two batteries) to the National Monument, and perhaps add Fort Wool too. We are confident the National Park Service is open to, and likely enthusiastic about, adding the Wherry Quarter lands to the Monument.
Q: Sasaki recently unveiled some options for Fort Monroe, what are your thoughts about those plans? Option B, the parkland option for Wherry, is the best by far, with one qualification: it allows for tourist-oriented development in the northwest corner of Wherry. Any such development would be better placed in the southwest part of Wherry paralleling the west side of the fortress, where it wouldn’t interfere with adding 50 or so continuous acres of Wherry to the National Monument.
Q: Is there any concern about overdeveloping the west side of the property to make up for the added green space on the east side? If you mean the Historic Village and the industrial North Gate areas, then generally no. We believe the programmatic agreement, the design guidelines and the public participation procedures will act to assure that development in these parts is appropriate and adds value to the National Monument and entire property. A relatively dense fortress town on the west side of the Fort Monroe peninsula, with amenities for visitors and residents, works well with an expanded National Monument and its green landscape. It would create a pleasing and very appealing contrast that is relatively rare in the eastern United States. But if you mean the Mill Creek side of Wherry, we definitely wouldn’t want to see a new line of houses, apartments, or commercial buildings there, although we wouldn’t object to compatible construction in the southwest finger of Wherry behind the fortress.
Q: If people want to know more about the Citizens mission, is there are [sic] website they should visit? Our website address is fortmonroecitizens.org. The homepage has detailed discussions of Wherry, Sasaki’s options for Wherry in its Master Plan, an opportunity to add your opinion to a survey concerning these options, and (fairly far down) directions for using the Sasaki website. But there are also links to other information, including Fort Monroe’s remarkable history, the value of open space, a power-point presentation of citizens’ opinions over the last five years about Fort Monroe’s future, and awards won by our group. Thanks for the chance to share our views!
Mark Perreault and Scott Butler, Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park
Please read the CBS News Report below, view the video at
and consider the problems related here and how similar problems would occur if the Wherry Quarter of Fort Monroe is developed.
National parks’ landscape changing as private land developed
(CBS News) The National Park Service is announcing that a 30-acre piece of private land in Utah’s Zion National Park will not be developed. That’s welcome news for conservationists, as a growing number of private homes are being built in some of these protected areas.
Our national parks have been called “America’s best idea,” places untouched by time. Nearly 300 million people visit America’s national parks each year.
When National Parks and “McMansions” meet
People don’t think of the parks as places where you could build a vacation home. But people are now erecting McMansions in the middle of some of the most pristine places in the United States.
Hank and Mariangela Pino Landau built a vacation rental home on private land inside of Utah’s Zion National Park six years ago.
Hank Landau said, “It’s pretty incredible to be living in a place that’s surrounded by this beauty that is unplugged from the matrix of life.”
With a front yard that overlooks the iconic Tabernacle Dome, it’s hard to blame them for wanting to live here. Yet many of the park’s visitors, such as Russell Arnold do: “They don’t belong inside a park like this. If you wanted to see that kind of stuff, we can stay home.”
Asked what he says to critics, Hank Landau said, “This is private land. Do you want me to tell you to take your private property and sell it to your neighbor? Our neighbor is the park.”
There are 11,640 pieces of private land inside U.S. national parks. From Yosemite to Yellowstone, many have homes either built or being built on them. The land was owned before the national parks existed or ended up inside them as the parks expanded, according to the National Park Service.
Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, asked how big of an issue this is, he said, “It’s a really big deal. It’s like putting a fast food chain in the middle of the National Mall.”
He’s particularly concerned about what critics call a “McMansion” being built on a bluff overlooking a valley in Zion. Julie Hamilton was shocked to see it during a hike. “All of a sudden there’s this big house up on hill,” she said. “It’s like, are they going to build more? What’s happening here?”
What’s happening is budget cuts. In the 1960s, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund — $900 million a year paid for with offshore drilling royalties from oil companies. That money was historically used to buy up private lands in national parks when landowners decide to sell. But two-thirds of the oil money is now routinely spent by Congress on other programs, leaving the parks unable to compete with wealthy buyers.
Rogers said, “There are more and more people with the means to have two and three and four homes. And even if they’re only using them for a few weeks a year, they like to have them in iconic landscapes.”
Yet some members of Congress blame the Park Service for wasting money expanding park boundaries, instead of buying up the land inside them.
Just three percent of National Park land is privately owned — most of it is still vast open space. But the fear is that private land could be subdivided and some day you could look down a valley and see a neighborhood.
Actor Robert Redford has been an outspoken advocate of preserving the national parks ever since he shot “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in Zion in the ’60s. He worries the government no longer has the funds to protect the parks from more development.
“Once you start something, it’s kind of hard to bring it back,” he said. “The national parks here in this country are some of the greatest places on earth. Let’s at least leave something for our future generations, so they don’t have to see this either on a film or in photos, they can see it with their own eyes.”
Without government funds, Rogers’ organization had to find a private donor who bought land for sale at the base of Tabernacle Dome. Dozens of homes could have been built, but the land will now be gifted to the Park Service.
Rogers said, “Had that not happened, we might see a McMansion going up on this property here at Tabernacle Dome.”
Just up the road, the Landaus say they built their house to fit into the landscape, not as a trophy home.
Asked if they’ve been picked on, Mariangela Pino Landau said, “We’ve both been hurt by some of the things that have been said that have been disparaging about us being here and us having no right to be here.”
Hank Landau added, “The park had opportunities to buy land around here and haven’t had the money to do so.”
This year, Congress has allocated $161 million to the parks for buying land as it comes up for sale, but the price tag of the priority properties they are trying to protect is more than $2 billion, according to the Park Service.
Watch Ben Tracy’s report in the video at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57530300/national-parks-landscape-changing-as-private-land-developed
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: On some survey responses one or both of the last two columns on the form was left blank.
We are continuing to accept responses to the survey. If you have not had the opportunity to respond please go to http://fortmonroecitizens.org/master-plan-ideas/ for information on how you can send us your opinion.
More Photos at: http://fortmonroecitizens.org/visual-info/
What should be done with Wherry?
Daily Press Op-ed by Mark Perreault
At the July 26 meeting of the Fort Monroe Authority, Sasaki Associates, the firm in charge of the Fort Monroe planning process, gave an update on its progress. A key issue in the presentation was the future use of the Wherry Quarter, the 72-acre area that separates the two parts of Fort Monroe National Monument. Because Wherry contains no historic buildings and has Bay-facing shoreline, a number of public officials in the years since the base-closure announcement have emphasized its development potential. The public, on the other hand, has repeatedly expressed the desire for as much green space as possible at Fort Monroe (click on the power point link at fortmonroecitizens.org to see the evidence), and this may be why the state board’s previous plan designated Wherry’s use as “to be determined.”
Sasaki presenter Fred Merrill did not alter that designation. Instead, he offered four options for Wherry: a 72-acre park, a narrow green strip along Mill Creek, a narrow green strip along Chesapeake Bay, and a patchwork of parkland and developable areas. The nothing-but-a-park concept is the only one of these options that addresses the public’s wishes; the others don’t even come close. But it would be fair to say that Mr. Merrill downplayed it. He described the optimal Fort Monroe as “a dynamic, family-oriented, 24/7 community” and a thriving Hampton “neighborhood.” He said that nothing should be done to “freeze” Fort Monroe, which has always been characterized by change, and that parkland in Wherry would mean lost revenue for the FMA.
The only benefit of a green Wherry, Mr. Merrill seemed to imply, was that it would make the public happy. But even from just an economic perspective that is actually an enormous benefit. According to land planner Edward T. MacMahon, “Tourism involves more than marketing. It also involves making destinations more appealing. This means conserving and enhancing a destination’s natural assets. It is, after all, the unique heritage, culture, wildlife, or natural beauty … that attracts sightseers in the first place.” A green Wherry would enhance Fort Monroe’s natural beauty and historic ambience by providing striking views of the Bay from the north ramparts of the old fortress, and of the fortress itself–the key historic structure–from Wherry parkland, while linking the fortress and historic quarter (and its amenities, like food, entertainment and lodging) directly to natural lands and thereby making Fort Monroe a recreational oasis (walking, biking, bird-watching, and beach pursuits, etc.) in the middle of Hampton Roads.. It could also be used, profitably, for outdoor events such as arts-and-crafts shows, Chesapeake Bay and nature oriented events, and larger outdoor music or arts events that could not be accommodated in Continental Park. It would thus make Fort Monroe more appealing not only to tourists from afar but also to local visitors, who would keep coming back. And it would attract businesses to the region that value a high quality of life.
Moreover, a green Wherry would allow for the possibility of unifying Fort Monroe National Monument and strengthening the fort’s National Park Service brand. A National Park (or Monument) is the gift that keeps on giving. At a February town-hall meeting on Virginia tourism, the NPS director cited these 2010 statistics: “The 23 million visitors to Virginia’s National Park sites contributed $493 million to local economies and supported 7,000 private-sector jobs.”
Viewed from another perspective than Mr. Merrill’s, then, a green Wherry wouldn’t freeze Fort Monroe; it would invigorate it with tourists and, especially, regular and repeat visitors from within the region, and their dollars.
The Hampton City Council would seem to agree. Under the strong leadership of Mayor Molly Ward it recently passed a resolution that acknowledges the public’s desire for a “large scale open space park” in Wherry, calls for a significant green connection with viewshed protection between the two parts of the Monument, and says it will only support development in Wherry that is tourist-oriented, respectful of open space, and complementary to NPS goals. This translates into plenty of parkland and no residential construction.
Essentially, the FMA must choose between two visions of Wherry: a developed area with limited public use that diminishes the fort’s appeal and provides only short-term revenue, or a beautiful public space that will benefit Fort Monroe and the region both culturally and economically forever. If it listens to the vast majority of Hampton Roads citizens, as well as to its own wisest counsel, it will choose the latter vision. And if it must engage in some new development to ensure the successful preservation and adaptive re-use of the historic buildings, another requisite of Fort Monroe’s success, it will still have options. It can put new construction in the non-historic North Gate area, and following Hampton’s lead, it can devote 20 acres or so of the West Wherry along Mill Creek to tourist-oriented development without adversely impacting a 50-acre large-scale park for that part of Wherry lying between the fortress and the National Monument’s North Beach area. Arguably, the part of Wherry closest to North Gate might also be used for other kinds of development. And once Wherry Park is established, there would be no reason not to begin the process of transferring it (and the two Endicott batteries not yet in the Monument, Batteries Irwin and Parrott) to Fort Monroe National Monument.
To its great credit, the state board has demonstrated a widening vision of Fort Monroe’s significance, culminating in its energetic and successful pursuit of Fort Monroe National Monument. Now to bring its own initiative to fruition, it must widen its vision further to embrace a green Wherry slated for inclusion in the Monument.
Mark Perreault, President
Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park
Above is the unedited version of the op-ed. An edited version appeared online September 21, 2012 and in print September 22, 2012.
Larger versions of these images are at:
Hampton asking for “significant green connection” on Fort Monroe
City Council takes stance on Wherry Quarter
Read Daily Press article and Hampton Resolution at:
To view the 5 Wherry Quarter Concepts and to read about an opinion survey that we are conducting, please go to: http://fortmonroecitizens.org/master-plan-ideas/
Meeting and Event Schedule at http://fortmonroecitizens.org/calendar
An explanation of the MindMixer point system, which is used to determine “website activity,” is at http://fortmonroecitizens.org/master-plan-ideas/
The Wherry Quarter
In 2011 President Obama designated about half of Fort Monroe–the fortress area and 244 acres of parkland–a national monument, the equivalent of a national park but not created by an act of Congress. Behind the president’s declaration lay a long campaign by Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, crucial support from National Parks Conservation Association and several other historic and preservation organizations*, and a remarkable bipartisan effort involving the Virginia Congressional delegation, the Fort Monroe Authority (the state board in control of Fort Monroe’s future), Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, and Hampton Mayor Molly Ward. It was a great achievement that will give much more visibility to Fort Monroe’s astonishingly rich history (see the history link above). But for Fort Monroe to realize its full potential as a national and international destination, a magnificent urban park, and a revenue generator for Hampton Roads, one more step is necessary. The Wherry Quarter, the area of prime real estate that separates the two parts of Fort Monroe National Monument, and that contains no historic structures, must be turned into green space and transferred to the Monument. This will have a number of important effects. It will strengthen the National Park Service brand by expanding and uniting the Monument. It will provide striking views from the north side of the old fortress to the shorelines and vice versa, enhancing Fort Monroe’s historic ambience. It will prevent new construction in Wherry that would diminish Fort Monroe’s two basic appeals to visitors: historic architecture and natural beauty. It will create a unified, seamless grand public place that will attract not only tourists but also new businesses to the region. We also think that the south waterfront, the location of batteries Irwin and Parrott, should be transferred to the Monument for safekeeping. Over the last five years, state and local authorities have demonstrated a widening vision of Fort Monroe’s historic and economic significance, culminating in their vigorous pursuit of Fort Monroe National Monument. Now for their own initiative to succeed, they must widen their vision further to include a preserved Wherry. Please read the information below and elsewhere on this website for more details and ways that you can help make the Wherry Quarter and south waterfront area part of Fort Monroe National Monument.*In addition to NPCA: Chesapeake Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Civil War Preservation Trust, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Virginia, and Trust for Public Land.
To all supporters of Fort Monroe:
Dear Friends of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park: Sasaki, the consulting firm hired by the Fort Monroe Authority, is using a website to collect and gauge public opinion about Fort Monroe’s future. At the last FMA Master Plan public meeting, a Sasaski representative characterized the number of website participants thus far as small, setting the stage for ignoring the results. We know the public wants Fort Monroe to become a grand public place. We are certain that this can happen only if the Wherry Quarter (the area of land that splits Fort Monroe National Monument) and the south waterfront (the location of batteries Irwin and Parrott) are PRESERVED AND added to the Monument for safekeeping.If you agree with us, we urge you to make your opinion known on the Sasaki website. By seconding the participants’ ideas in favor of transferring Wherry and the south waterfront to the Monument, you can have a huge impact on the planning process.
Here’s how you can help. It’s easy:
1. Go to http://ideas.fmauthority.com (the Sasaski website)
2. Click on “join” in the top right corner if you haven’t already joined. This will allow you to register, which is simple to do: Give your name, birth date, zip, e-mail, and a password. The rest of the information is optional. You can also choose to make your profile private.
3. Once you are signed in, click on each of the Sasaki questions about Fort Monroe and view the participants’ submitted ideas. You can add to those ideas, respond to them, or second them by clicking on “second.” But PLEASE second the ideas by these CFMNP members and friends: Adrian W, Scott B6, Mark P3, Susan B4, and Ron W–especially when their ideas advocate adding the Wherry Quarter and the south waterfront to Fort Monroe National Monument. One click for each and you’re finished.The few minutes you spend doing this will help to make Fort Monroe a grand public place for untold generations to come.
Thanks, and urge your friends to participate too!
For other ways you can help, see the website for Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park: http://fortmonroecitizens.org
We at CFMNP urge all of you to take part in the opportunity to further express the importance of a unified Fort Monroe National Monument. Please go to our Master Plan Idea page, http://fortmonroecitizens.org/master-plan-ideas/
to see an analysis of the ideas submitted to the online Town Hall, in which creating open space in the Wherry Quarter and making the heart of Fort Monroe part of the national monument was by far the number one idea submitted by the public.
Please read the words and view the photos/videos on and linked to this page and then make COMMENTS by going to (1) http://fortmonroecitizens.org/master-plan-ideas/ and then http://ideas.fmauthority.com to comment on the Fort Monroe Authority Master Plan (Sasaki) and (2) http://fortmonroecitizens.org/nps-planning/ to comment on the Fort Monroe National Monument. In both comment processes we urge you to state the importance of an unified Fort Monroe National Monument that includes the Wherry Quarter and the waterfront to the south.The Virginian-Pilot editorial© April 13, 2012The Wherry Quarter, roughly 100 acres of state-owned waterfront land dividing two sections of the new Fort Monroe National Monument, should be permanently set aside as open space and added to the park as soon as possible.That’s the chief message that residents of Hampton Roads – and beyond – should deliver to two groups preparing plans for the future of 565 acres overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.One of those efforts is led by the National Park Service, which assumed control of more than half of the fort last fall when President Barack Obama declared it a national monument.On April 30, park officials will host meetings to hear the public’s thoughts on how the fort’s rich history should be told and how its land should be used. The sessions will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at The Chamberlin on the monument grounds. The public also can make suggestions online at http://goo.gl/MxoQ1 through May 4.The other effort is led by Sasaki Associates, a Boston-based firm hired by the Fort Monroe Authority to create a master plan for the roughly 240 acres of the fort owned by the state.The authority intends to lease or sell some of the historic buildings on the property and try to attract limited, compatible development – similar to The Presidio of San Francisco, a historic Army post that’s now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.At a recent public meeting, historic preservationists, civic leaders and residents expressed support for protecting the Wherry Quarter, as they have throughout the long campaign to convert the fort into a national park.The authority is still taking comments online at http://ideas.fmauthority.com.Protecting the waterfront from development – any development – is critical to securing the integrity of the new national monument. Its value as a historic site, a natural resource and tourist attraction will be degraded if the Wherry Quarter is not preserved.Various state and federal officials have said they’ve heard that message loud and clear. But let them know again. And keep letting them know until the waterfront is set aside and incorporated in the national monument. http://hamptonroads.com/2012/04/next-step-fort-monroe
——————————————————————————————————————-Development in Fort Monroe’s Wherry Quarter and along the waterfront to the south could:Obstruct the beautiful view from the north side of the fortress to the Bay, and vice versa.Significantly diminish potential recreational space.Forever separate the two parts of the National Monument.Foreclose the possibility of Wherry and the southern waterfront ever transferring to the National Monument.Preclude realizing Fort Monroe’s true potential as a “Grand Public Place”Failure to protect all of Fort Monroe could:Result in permanent harm to Fort Monroe National Monument.Diminish the experience of visitors to this great place. WHERE WE STAND ON THE WHERRY QUARTERThe position of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park (CFMNP) has been, from its beginning in June 2006 and continuing into the present, that of creating a public space along the Chesapeake Bay from the Fortress to the northern end of Dog Beach. We have always maintained the importance of the Wherry Quarter to a Fort Monroe National Park. When the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority (FMFADA, later changed to Fort Monroe Authority (FMA)) divided Fort Monroe into zones, the Wherry Quarter’s future was labeled “yet to be determined.” Certainly our efforts on behalf of a grand public place that included the Wherry Quarter influenced that designation.The approach of CFMNP over the past six years has been that of being assertive but not belligerent. We realized early on that part of our strategy had to be that of persuading public officials that a national park at Fort Monroe was the best use of this national treasure. To persuade public officials to support a park we made a central part of our strategy to attend every public meeting related to Fort Monroe and to submit oral and written comments on countless occasions. We also made contacts outside of organized meetings as we continued our advocacy. It was important to develop a working relationship with many individuals who initially did not agree with our goals. We treated all of these people with proper respect and in time discovered that we were being listened to.Our strategy began to bear fruit when out of mutual respect some of our members were included on various committees of the FMA. The situation began to change as the FMA first studied the prospects of a national park unit at Fort Monroe and then decided to have talks with the National Parks Service (NPS) concerning the possible scope of a park. At this critical point it was important to bring in national organizations such as the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and other groups who had much experience working with Congress and the federal administration to establish a proposal that would be presented to Congress as well as to the President.Why was Wherry not included in the original Fort Monroe National Monument? A big roadblock early on in our efforts to create a national park was the reluctance of the NPS to accept a large inventory of buildings. They did not want to go into the real estate business. It appeared inevitable that Fort Monroe would be divided in some way with the state owning most of the buildings and maintaining them by leasing them out. Our position concerning the Wherry Quarter has been that the buildings there can be used in the short run by the FMA to generate income. In time most of the buildings could be removed, providing open space and a view from the Fortress to the Bay. It has already been determined that the Wherry Apartments will be demolished. We strongly advocate that nothing be built in their place.Again there is an undetermined nature concerning the future of the Wherry Quarter. The agreement that led to the establishment of the national monument states that the two parts of the park will be connected in some way. It would have been ideal if we could have gotten everything we wanted in the designation signed by the President. When an organization is one party of many in a negotiation process it can’t expect to get everything immediately. However nothing prevents us from working for more land to be included in the national monument. National park units have grown over time as the need to accommodate more visitors and to shield the park from encroaching development becomes urgent.Our strategy must now be to prevent any development in the Wherry Quarter while continuing to advocate for its inclusion in Fort Monroe National Monument. To do this we must continue to work with national preservation organizations as we communicate the wisdom of a unified Fort Monroe National Monument to public officials. The fact that Fort Monroe National Monument is a reality gives us added influence as we call for open space in the Wherry Quarter. Please don’t underestimate the value of pictures as we make our case for a greater Fort Monroe National Monument, for one who truly sees the situation as it is and the potential that can be achieved will join us in advocating for a unified Fort Monroe National Monument that includes the Wherry Quarter.