That Fort Monroe is a national treasure is indisputable and undisputed. What should happen to the fort after its decommissioning, however, is the subject of lively debate.Based on the findings of this study, we believe that the urban portion of the Hampton Roads area is short of parkland overall, particularly in certain strategic locations such as its urban core and its waterfront. The five major cities of the Hampton Roads area have a combined total of 30,483 acres of public parkland, just over 10 percent of the five cities’ combined land area. By comparison, much more crowded New York City actually has more parkland than all five of the Hampton Roads cities combined. And even though the five Hampton cities cover a much larger area than New York, Boston or the main cities of San Francisco Bay, the other three regions all have more parkland as a percentage of their cities’ land area than Hampton Roads.Even more striking is the deficit of public parkland along the shoreline in the Hampton Roads region compared to the three other port cities. Hampton Roads has almost twice as much city shoreline as New York City and more than nine times as much city shoreline as either Boston or the three San Francisco Bay cities. … Both New York City and the San Francisco Bay area have double the percentage of parkland along the shore, while Boston has almost three and a half times as much waterfront parkland.
This shortage deprives the region of many benefits that parks bring — from recreational opportunities to natural preservation, from enhanced property value to greater tourism revenue, from improved human health outcomes to increased community cohesion thanks to volunteerism in parks and the increased competitiveness of the region to businesses considering relocating to the area, especially those with a significant number of white collar workers.
It is important to recognize that some of Hampton Roads’ park shortage is due to the area’s heavy military presence. Of the region’s 12 major bases, nine are in the main cities. And because the shoreline along these bases is not publicly accessible, it is critical that Fort Monroe’s shoreline be conserved as open, public parkland in the future. Lastly, it is indisputable that parks created from old military installations prove themselves as significant tourism draws. Two nearby cases in point — Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Ga. and Fort Sumter near Charleston, S.C. — attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year as national parks. As a more impressive fort in a larger metropolitan area, Fort Monroe could be expected to have an even greater tourism impact.
Because of Fort Monroe’s bulls-eye central location within Hampton Roads, combined with its extraordinary collection of architectural, historical, recreational and conservation resources, we believe that its conversion to parkland would help reduce the parkland deficit of the entire Hampton Roads area and would also have significant positive spin-offs — economic and otherwise — for the entire region.
New National Monument Declared; Site of Previous TPL Study
Washington, D.C. – 11/01/2011
The Trust for Public Land today praised the decision by President Obama to designate Fort Monroe in Virginia as a national monument as part of the implementation of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
“Fort Monroe is an outstanding national resource and is a wonderful convergence of environmental, military, historical, and political issues in a singular point of land,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. “We congratulate President Obama for deciding to protect it as a national monument. This will be great for the Hampton Roads region and for the nation as a whole, and The Trust for Public Land is pleased to have helped make the case for this new park.”
Obama’s declaration means that just over half the 570-acre site will be protected by the National Park Service, including the Virginia Tidewater region’s main fortress and moat, along with access to beaches a large amount of open space. Built in the early 1800s, Fort Monroe is the third-oldest Army post still in continuous active service.
In September, 2007, based on an earlier research project in nearby Norfolk, Va., The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence was approached by a local group, the Committee for a Fort Monroe National Park. The committee wanted an evaluation of where the city of Hampton, which includes Fort Monroe, and the entire Hampton Roads region ranked in park land, compared to other areas of the country.
In a 2008 report, the Center for City Park Excellence found Hampton and three nearby cities – Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News – are below average in parks, compared to similar cities across the country. This is true when measured both on a per-capita basis and as a proportion of the size of the city. Of the five local cities, only Virginia Beach ranks above the national average in parkland.
“Not only will Fort Monroe stand as a unique park for the entire nation,” said Peter Harnik, director of the Center, “it will also serve to increase the park acreage of the underserved city of Hampton and its neighboring communities.”
The report, entitled Bracing for Change: Fort Monroe and the Need for Parkland in Hampton Roads, is available for download from The Trust for Public Land website.