2011 Articles, Editorials, Letters to the Editor

Obama Names Historic Fort Monroe,
Virginia A National Monument

By Scott C. Boyd
(December 2011 Civil War News)

HAMPTON, Va. – Bypassing stalled congressional legislation aimed at making historic Fort Monroe a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), President Barack Obama accomplished the same thing on Nov. 1 via a proclamation invoking the 1906 Antiquities Act.
That act gives the president authority to restrict the use of specific public land owned by the federal government by declaring it a national monument.

Fort Monroe National Monument became the nation’s 396th NPS unit.
Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell thanked Obama in a Nov. 7 letter and added, “Your decision and subsequent actions are key to Fort Monroe taking its rightful place as a recognized monument to our nation’s history.”
Obama’s proclamation was enabled by a Sept. 9 letter from McDonnell proposing terms for the Commonwealth of Virginia to convey certain parts of its property at Fort Monroe to the federal government for a national park.
Upon the departure of the U.S. Army and closing of the 192-year-old fort as an active Army post on Sept. 15, following the dictates of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, the fort’s 565 acres and its environs were scheduled to revert to ownership by the Commonwealth in early 2012.
One vestige of the Army that will remain is the Army-operated Casemate Museum, which shows the fort’s military history, including the cell where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was held after his capture by Union troops at the end of the Civil War.
It appears now that only part of the land will revert to the Commonwealth and the rest will be transferred back to the federal government.
Glenn Oder, new executive director of the Fort Monroe Authority (FMA), the political subdivision responsible for operating and managing the fort after it reverts to Virginia, said that approximately 57 percent of the acreage will go to the NPS and 43 percent to the FMA under the arrangement between Obama and McDonnell.
Obama’s proclamation was endorsed by national preservation groups and was widely applauded.
“I’m over the moon,” Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick said. “It’s something many people have worked for a long time.”
“The Sesquicentennial is a perfect time to create a Civil War national park,” said Civil War Trust Director of Policy and Communications Jim Campi.
“We had initially supported legislation to create a national park, but the politics of the situation are that legislation was going to take a long time to get through Congress, so this was the next best thing,” he said.
“The important thing now is that there will be a federal presence and a real opportunity to turn that base into a tourism destination,” Campi said.
“We are thrilled at this action by President Obama — a significant portion of Fort Monroe is now assured of long-term preservation and the highest quality of interpretation,” said Mark Perreault, president of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.
“This action came only 45 days after the Army garrison closed, far earlier than even in our fondest hopes,” he said.
“Nonetheless serious issues remain — the National Monument must be funded and the highest quality management plan developed. The state will still control many acres of Fort Monroe in immediate proximity to the National Monument, and it must operate on a financially self-sustaining basis, causing the state to be motivated toward revenue and development which, if not limited and very carefully done, could damage Fort Monroe,” according to Perreault.
According to the NPS Fort Monroe includes 170 historic buildings and nearly 200 acres of natural resources, including 8 miles of waterfront, 3.2 miles of beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, 110 acres of submerged lands and 85 acres of wetlands.

New Superintendent
Director Jonathan B. Jarvis named 20-year NPS veteran Kirsten Talken-Spaulding as the first superintendent of Fort Monroe National Monument. She is an NPS Bevinetto Congressional Fellow who has worked on Capitol Hill during the two-year leadership program.
She is literally starting from scratch as she starts up a new NPS unit at Fort Monroe. “My staff is me, myself and I,” she joked.
“I have no keys and no desk yet,” she said. “Wherever I sit becomes my office.”
In her first week, she stayed with relatives in the area and worked a lot from home.
By the end of her second week, she hopes to move into her office at the fort in Building #17, also known as Lee’s Quarters. When he was a young engineer, Lt. Robert E. Lee stayed there while serving at the fort before the war that would tear the country apart and make him world-famous.
A public planning process will determine the programs and services the fort will provide to park visitors, according to Talken-Spaulding. Then the staffing needs will be clearer, although she knows already that she will need people to help with the facilities and educational work.
“One of the greatest assets that the Fort Monroe National Monument has is the local people that have cared so much about this: The Army, which has set up this area for success for generations upon generations of those who have served there; the Fort Monroe Authority; the City of Hampton, and others,” she said.
“The Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park — what an amazing group!” she said. “I will meet with them in mid-November. They’re part of why this park exists.”
Other NPS units in the area will help loan staff to assist at Fort Monroe to provide programming in 2012, Talken-Spaulding said. She hopes to post a schedule before spring.
For now, Talken-Spaulding wants to put out the word that the fort is open, as is its partner, the Casemate Museum. Both are open daily with no admission fee. The fort’s website is www.nps.gov/fomr





White House Decides on Making Fort Monroe a National Monument

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 29, 2011


Fort Monroe will take its place among the nation’s most revered places on Tuesday, when President Barack Obama is expected to designate much of the former Army base a national park.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a phone interview Saturday that Obama would use powers granted to him under the Antiquities Act to preserve theHamptonwaterfront fortress and hundreds of acres of open space along theChesapeake Bay.

More than a dozen presidents, starting with Theodore Roosevelt, have used the 1906 act to protect historic or endangered places that loom large in American lore, including theGrand Canyonand the Statue of Liberty.

Fort Monroe, “a very unique and a very special place,” will be the 396th national park in the United States, Salazar said.

The announcement delighted local and state officials and the region’s bipartisan congressional delegation, which introduced legislation to create a national park but pressed Obama to use his executive powers to make it happen more quickly.

Salazar said bipartisan backing for a national park, buttressed by broad public support, helped persuade Obama to act. He also cited jobs creation as a motivator for the president, saying that the money spent by tourists who visit the park would create many jobs in coming years.

“It’s a huge economic opportunity for southern Virginia,” Salazar said, noting that national parks draw tourists and attract businesses that cater to them.

Fort Monroe’s most historic chapter came during the Civil War, when it remained a bastion of federal power even after Virginia seceded. Early in the conflict, three escaped slaves reached the fort and asked for the Union Army’s protection. The commanding general’s decision not to send the men back to their Confederate owners set the stage for a mass migration of slaves to Fort Monroe and helped bring about the Emancipation Proclamation.

It will be a few months until the public sees evidence of the National Park Service at the 565-acre post. Although ceremonially transferred to Virginia on Sept. 15, the property had not yet legally reverted to the state – a key detail in meeting the provisions of the Antiquities Act, which permits the president to designate existing federal land as a national monument.

Fort Monroe won’t be only a national park, though. If the president follows the blueprint of the pending legislation, the park service would manage slightly more than half of the property, including the north beach area and about 90 acres inside and around the moated stone fortress. The Fort Monroe Authority, a state entity, would handle the rest – including limited new development in certain areas.

State officials celebrated Salazar’s news Saturday.

The recognition provides another tourism draw for the state and will help enhance the economy by creating new jobs, Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement praising the bipartisan cooperation that yielded this result.

“Our national parks tell the story of who we are as a country and a people,” McDonnell said. “FortMonroeis an important chapter of that story and long worthy of recognition and preservation.”

The movement to make the fort into a national park started as a grassroots effort after a federal base closing commission announced in 2005 that the Army would depart Fort Monroe in 2011.

The founders of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park modeled their vision on San Francisco’s Presidio, a former Army base now managed jointly by a trust and the National Park Service. They were initially rebuffed by local and state officials. In 2008, the park service concluded in a study it couldn’t feasibly manage part or all of Fort Monroe.

The local group refused to be deterred and continued to lobby lawmakers, build public support, and send speakers to meetings about the fort’s future.

“We would not be here if it were not for Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park. They would not take ‘no’ for an answer,” said authority executive director Glenn Oder, who will represent Virginia at a ceremony Tuesday in Washington to announce the designation.

Mark Perreault, president of the citizens group, gave credit to the many parties who worked together to achieve consensus.

“I don’t think if you look at all the other national parks, you’ll find one that came together quite this quickly,” Perreault said. “So many people came together around this and worked real hard for this. We’re thrilled.”

Pilot writer Julian Walker contributed to this report.

Kate Wiltrout, (757) 446-2629, kate.wiltrout@pilotonline.com



National Monument announcement for Fort Monroe likely this week






Parade Ground, pictured center, on Fort Monroe. (Image courtesy of Fort Monroe / November 24, 2010)

By David Macaulay, dmacaulay@dailypress.com | 757-247-7838

1:20 p.m. EDT, October 30, 2011

HAMPTON– A new era beckons for Fort Monroe with President Barack Obama poised to designate much of the historic site that played a part in the dismantling of slavery a national monument on Tuesday.

The City of Hampton welcomed comments made by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over the weekend, suggesting the President is poised to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate part of Fort Monroe as a National Monument. Although there has been no official announcement, Obama has scheduled a signing ceremony for the designation on Tuesday at 1.45 p.m. at the White House.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell welcomed the news in a statement.

“This is a great opportunity to grow our tourism industry while sharing our history. It’s the result of years of work and bipartisan cooperation by officials at all levels of government and this designation will help us preserve our past while creating good jobs for our citizens and bringing more visitors to the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Our National Parks tell the story of who we are as a country and a people.Fort Monroe is an important chapter of that story and long worthy of recognition and preservation,” he said.

The Army held a deactivation ceremony at Fort Monroe on Sep. 15, bringing to an end about four centuries of military occupation of the site at Old Point Comfort. Efforts were made by local and state officials over the last six years to keep Fort Monroe from closing, but the Army vacated the post in September following a decision by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The land is due to be transferred to the ownership of the Fort Monroe Authority early next year, although some federally owned parcels do not automatically revert.

Over the last year a groundswell of support for a National Park presence at Fort Monroe has grown in Hampton and the surrounding area. Legislation has been submitted in Congress to create a national park and Obama has been urged to set up a national monument under the Antiquities Act, a more speedy route to bring a National Park Service presence to Fort Monroe.

A public consultation exercise was held in July which included public meetings and about 2,700 written and online comments sent to the National Park Service, the majority in favor of bringing a national park or a national monument to Fort Monroe.

In August staffers on Capitol Hill made it clear Obama was looking seriously at proclaiming FortMonroe’s northern sphere – the federally owned parcel referred to as “Dog Beach,” a national monument.

However, in the same month the National Park Service told the Fort Monroe Authority it was willing to take on a bigger national park footprint than it (the NPS) had hitherto wanted. The service agreed to take on ownership of the North Beach area, all of Walker Field and a small portion of the moat area in the vicinity of buildings 1, 17 and 50, the buildings it’s interested in. A long-term lease is proposed for Casemate 22.

In September, Salazar revealed he was pushing ahead with Fort Monroe’s preservation as a national monument by following the Antiquities Act route.

Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward said in a statement Sunday: “We are thrilled and grateful that the President has chosen to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate a major portion of Fort Monroe as a National Monument.”

Her comments suggest the President is eventually poised to create a larger national monument than envisaged in August when the Dog Beach area was floated as the nucleus of a national monument. While the President can only designate federally owned land a national monument under the Antiquities Act, the footprint of a national monument or park is likely to grow, according to local decision makers.

“A National Monument at Fort Monroe will give the fort the stature it deserves in our nation’s history,” Ward said. “Very few Americans know the story of the Contraband slaves, and how slavery really ended in theUnited States. I believe the significance of the President’s designation, and the significance of Fort Monroe, will continue to grow in years to come as its story becomes known,” Ward said.

The 150th anniversary of the historic contraband decision was celebrated in May. When Monroe’s commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, refused to return three slaves who came to the fortress in May 1861, effectively classifying them as “contraband” of war, it changed the course of the Civil War and the nation’s history. Large numbers of escaped slaves flocked to what became known as “Freedom’s Fortress.”

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Newport News) welcomed the expected announcement on Tuesday, as “wonderful news for Fort Monroe, the City of Hampton, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and our nation.”

Presidents have created national monuments under the Antiquities Act since 1906 . Theodore Roosevelt, was the first president to use the act. While the designation would not automatically create a national park, it often involves the presence of a National Park Service unit and national monuments, can become national parks at a later date. The 1906 act has been used by previous presidents to protect a host of sites, including the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.

See the Hampton Matters blog at dailypress.com/hamptonmatters



WEAR GREEN DAY In support of a National Monument at Fort Monroe!

“The city would like citizens who want to show support for the National Park initiative to gather outside the two main gates of Langley Air Force Base on Armistead Avenue and LaSalle Avenue on Wednesday morning. But there will be no parking along the streets, so they should walk from a nearby parking lot. Because of the likely closure of streets, citizens should get an early start and arrive outside the gates no later than 7:30 a.m.” [from Daily Press article below]

On Wednesday morning October 19 the City of Hampton will stick signs in the ground at 2 locations: just outside Langley at west entrance (off Armistead Avenue), just outside Langley at Lasalle Ave. (south) entrance to Langley. Supporters of a Fort Monroe National Park or National Monument are encouraged to get out at 7:30AM and man the signs until the President enters at one of those locations. Invited guests to President’s speech are asked to enter Armistead Avenue gate by 8:15, suggesting that the President might be entering Langley at that time or shortly thereafter (gate entrance unknown).

Hampton calls for green day as Obama visits

City: Arrive early to line streets in support of Monroe

October 17, 2011|By David Macaulay, dmacaulay@dailypress.com | 757-247-7838

HAMPTON — The city of Hampton is urging its residents to wear green on Wednesday when President Barack Obama is in town — to make the case for a National Park at Fort Monroe.

The president will highlight parts of his jobs plan that encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans when he visits Langley Air Force Base on Wednesday morning. He’s also likely to be pressed on the issue of Fort Monroe following a concerted campaign to persuade him to designate part of the site as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

“While we hope he acknowledges the effort, we do not expect him to make an announcement about the Antiquities Act,” Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward said Monday.

Ward canceled a scheduled trip to Washington, D.C., Wednesday, where she was going to a Congressional hearing over legislation to make part of the fort a national park. She will attend the Obama visit instead.

She said her submissions will be made in writing and will concentrate on the economic case for a National Park Service presence. In addition to the historical and environmental reasons for a park service presence at Fort Monroe, there are economic reasons, she said.

“We have lost 5,000 jobs with the closure of Fort Monroe. A national park will help bring back jobs,” she said.

Ward said national parks typically have a positive economic impact on areas around them.

The city plans to have members of the community lining the route of the presidential motorcade holding signs urging Obama to make Fort Monroe a national monument. Hampton residents will also be urged to wear green as a statement of their support for the idea.

Ward said the effort would be aimed not just at the president but the media, pointing to the widespread local support for the idea of a park presence at Fort Monroe.

“We are hosting the president and the national press in Hampton,” Ward said. “Let’s show them and the community how strongly we feel about the issue by wearing green or green ribbons.”

The city would like citizens who want to show support for the National Park initiative to gather outside the two main gates of Langley Air Force Base on Armistead Avenue and LaSalle Avenue on Wednesday morning.

But there will be no parking along the streets, so they should walk from a nearby parking lot. Because of the likely closure of streets, citizens should get an early start and arrive outside the gates no later than 7:30 a.m.

Hampton councilman Ross Kearney, who is on the board of the Fort Monroe Authority, said he will be wearing green and has his “fingers crossed” that Obama will make a surprise announcement on the National Park Service issue on Wednesday. 

A formal consultation by the park service over Fort Monroe was launched in the summer. About 2,700 people provided comments to the National Park Service when asked whether a national park should be set up at Fort Monroe and the vast majority favored a park.

Last month Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is pushing ahead with Fort Monroe’s preservation as a national monument. The monument would likely comprise a limited area concentrating on the federally owned Dog Beach area.


Nearly 3,000 back National Park at Fort Monroe

Daily Press
August 01, 2011

HAMPTON – About 2,700 people provided comments to the National Park Service when asked whether a national park should be at Fort Monroe – and the vast majority favor a park.

National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said Monday about 1,700 comments were received on line by the July 26 deadline and approximately 1,000 comments were received in the mail.

“It’s a very good response … they were far and away in favor of National Park Service stewardship of the site,” he said.

The National Park Service also heard comments at two public meetings on July 19.

Hampton Mayor Molly Ward estimated almost 1,000 people attended those meetings at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The focus was on establishing a park at the fort after the Army vacates the post on Sept. 15.

Bills to set up a National Park at Fort Monroe have already been submitted in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

The National Park Service is still working on how much it would cost to run a park at Fort Monroe, Olson said.

U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va. Beach, told The Associated Press that a national park at the fort would cost about $600,000 a year. Rigell has introduced the legislation to set up a National Park in the House of Representatives.

Although the park service is facing a maintenance backlog bill running of billions of dollars, Rigell remains hopeful it will be possible to find the money. “I think finding $600,000 in offsets, frankly, is like finding a penny on the ground,” he told AP.

The Fort Monroe Authority, the City of Hampton and the local congressional delegation are pursuing two different routes to bring a National Park Service unit to Fort Monroe. They have also appealed to President Barack Obama to designate Fort Monroe as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act, a route that would be quicker than legislation.

The National Park footprint proposed by the National Park Service is smaller than the one voted on by the board of the Fort Monroe Authority earlier this year, but it includes open areas the park service did not support in a statement made after a visit in 2010.

Under the new map, the park service would own about 194 acres. A National Park Service-Fort Monroe Authority easement area would comprise 130 acres. The park service’s boundary would cover 324 acres, leaving about 241 acres of the total acreage at the post.

Areas outside the control of the National Park Service would be owned and administered by the Fort Monroe Authority, a political subdivision of the state of Virginia.

The park service is interested in an area encircling the historic fort, ownership of Buildings 1, 17 and 50, and leasing Casemate 22. It would also own the Dog Beach area at the north end of Fort Monroe.

Terrie Suit, who chairs the board of the Fort Monroe Authority, said Monday she did not have any information on the cost of a National Park at Fort Monroe.

Becoming the Party of Freedom

The New York Times
July 31, 2011

Republicans began the Civil War as the party of Union, not the party of Freedom. They did not become the celebrated destroyers of slavery until almost two years into the war, with the Emancipation Proclamation, issued Jan. 1, 1863. But during the summer of 1861 the direction of change was unmistakable, as Republicans took the first, crucial steps in a mounting attack on the South’s “peculiar institution.” Long-held beliefs about the immorality of slavery combined with the challenges posed by an escalating conflict, explain the evolving outlook of the Republicans.

Along with a strong commitment to expanding the Northern economy, the Republican Party had always emphasized its opposition to slavery: both the 1856 and 1860 platforms cited the Declaration of Independence with its ringing affirmation of liberty for all. Many of the individuals leading the new party had long denounced bondage. Representative Owen Lovejoy, whose abolitionist brother had been killed by a pro-slavery mob, labeled the institution “the sum of all villainy”; Abraham Lincoln remarked that he favored free soil “because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.” Most mainstream Republicans shared this outlook.

And yet that cauldron of antislavery sentiment bubbled alongside the carefully restrained policies the party enunciated. Republicans promised to respect slavery where it existed. They agreed to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Seeking to rule a nation of property owners, the new party eschewed lawless actions, even those committed in opposition to slavery. Indeed, before 1861 the only step the Republicans advocated to speed the demise of slavery was restricting its spread into the territories. But, free soil was not abolition, and Republicans recognized that barring slavery from the West would lead to its ultimate extinction only far in the future.

Had the Civil War been brief, the Republicans’ reverence for property rights – rather than their profound antislavery convictions – would have prevailed, and Southern institutions would likely have emerged unscathed. During April and May 1861 federal forces captured and returned the hundreds of African Americans who rushed to the Union troops in Maryland or crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania. A Maryland editorialist remarked that more fugitives had been recovered since Lincoln took office “than during the whole of Mr. Buchanan’s presidential term.”

But as the clash continued, new circumstances gradually led the Republicans to rethink their cautious policies. The beginnings of change came toward the end of May, when Gen. Benjamin Butler accepted three fugitives at Fort Monroe in Virginia. Butler wrote to the War Department for advice, leading Lincoln to discuss the matter with his cabinet. Many in Washington, like General in Chief Winfield Scott (who chortled at “Butler’s fugitive slave law”), expected a simple reaffirmation of the administration’s commitment to returning slaves.

Instead, in response to Butler’s request Lincoln and his cabinet mapped out a policy that moved the North away from strict adherence to the fugitive slave law. The president had to strike a careful balance. On the one hand, he knew that various concerns reinforced the Republicans’ defense of property rights. To win the war and preserve the republican “experiment” Lincoln had to keep together an unwieldy coalition. It included not only Republicans but also Democrats and Border State Unionists who demanded a strict adherence to the Constitution. On the other hand, Lincoln and other members of the cabinet could hardly ignore their long-held antislavery beliefs and the wonderful opportunity offered by Butler’s initiative.

The result? Butler was told that his decision to harbor the slaves was “approved,” but he was given no indication whether these individuals, and the many others now arriving at “Fortress Freedom,” were considered free. Similarly mixed messages were provided to other commanders. Hence some officers welcomed numerous “contrabands” into their camps, while others, like Henry Halleck and George McClellan, returned runaways to their masters. Not until March 1862 did Congress order the Army to keep all fugitives.

The Northern defeat at Bull Run on July 21 led Republicans to take yet another step toward emancipation. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, lawmakers accepted a resolution, put forth by John Crittenden of Kentucky, affirming that the Union would not interfere “with the rights or established institutions” of the South. But many Republicans soon had second thoughts about any effort to protect slavery. Northerners now recognized that the conflict would be a prolonged one and that slaves were an important resource for the Confederates. More than ever before, Republicans voiced long-held antislavery feelings, and expounded the moral, economic and strategic reasons for emancipation.

The most visible result was that on Aug. 6 Congress passed the Confiscation Act, which allowed Union officers to take and free those slaves the Confederates had used for military purposes. This measure, which moved a step beyond what Butler had done, worried Lincoln, who feared it might alienate the Border States. He signed the bill, according to the New York Times, “with great reluctance.”

The next step in the radicalization of Republican, and Northern, opinion came with John C. Fremont’s proclamation at the end of August. After suffering a series of reverses, Fremont, who commanded federal forces in Missouri, declared that he would emancipate the slaves owned by his Confederate opponents. Republicans across the North cheered this bold move. “Everybody of every sect, party, sex, and color approves it,” declared Senator James Grimes of Iowa. But Lincoln, acutely aware of the impact the proclamation would have on the pivotal state of Kentucky, first requested and then ordered Fremont to revoke his decree. A few weeks later he removed the general.

Despite Fremont’s removal, by the fall of 1861 Lincoln’s views and the outlook of most Republicans had become far more radical. While as yet only a minority of senators and congressmen called for emancipation, that chorus had grown mightily since the beginning of the war. When Congress reconvened in December it refused to reaffirm the Crittenden resolution. In his State of the Union address Lincoln set forth his own plan for ending slavery. Although the proposal would prove unworkable, resting as it did on voluntarism, compensation and colonization, the plan displayed Lincoln’s newfound belief that the status quo was unacceptable.

The boldness of the slaves themselves and the escalating war helped drive this change. But “events” are not a sufficient explanation. Democrats and Border State Unionists, who traditionally had been less vehement in their opposition to bondage, resisted each of the steps. Only when changing circumstances are combined with the beliefs of a party that had long condemned (in Lincoln’s words) the “vast moral evil” of slavery does the march toward freedom become understandable.

Va. seeks support for national park creation at Fort Monroe as Congress looks to cut spending

BROCK VERGAKIS Associated Press
July 30, 2011 – 10:37 am

HAMPTON, Va. – On a small sliver of land at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay stands a fortress so steeped in American history that officials here are convinced it should become a national park when the Army leaves after nearly 200 years.

But they’ll have to persuade Congress to pick up the tab.

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell told The Associated Press that operating a national park on the peninsula where the first African slaves were brought into the country would likely cost about $600,000 a year, the first time a price tag has been pegged to Fort Monroe’s conversion. Those costs would come as the National Park Service is facing a $10 billion maintenance backlog for its existing parks and Congress scrambles to find ways to cut the national deficit.

“I think finding $600,000 in offsets, frankly, is like finding a penny on the ground. It will not be difficult to find $600,000 that I think we can get our colleagues to agree to. I’m not underestimating the challenge, but we will find a way,” he said.

Fort Monroe lies in Rigell’s district. He’s part of a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers and residents clamoring to turn the current home of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command – which includes a moated fort that once imprisoned Confederate president Jefferson Davis – into a national park when the Army pulls out in September.

Proponents contend turning the fort into a national park would provide a sorely needed urban national park to tell slavery’s story while also helping to boost the local economy. The National Park Service is in charge of several historic sites across the country, many of which are big tourist draws.

Ownership of the fort is being transferred to Virginia, but turning it into a state park was never seriously considered. Fort Monroe Authority Chairwoman Terrie Suit said Virginia never developed cost estimates for such a plan because it likely would be too expensive.

“We feel very strongly that there’s a nationally significant story that needs to be told and that story can best be told by the National Park Service,” she said.

Thousands of Virginia residents and historic preservationists across the nation agreed in comments submitted to the National Park Service during a three-week period that ended Tuesday, said National Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson. The park service also held public hearings in Hampton attended by hundreds of supporters, many of whom had personal connections to the base and fear the state would never be able to afford maintaining it.

“It’s a national treasure and we need to preserve it and share it. I don’t want to see it disappear,” said Hampton resident Polly Siemann, whose husband and children once worked at the fort. “I don’t think the city or the state has the funding to actually do the preservation, and so I would guess that it would be developed and maybe we’d see a few high-rises there which would really be a tragedy.”

In addition to being the spot where the first slaves made landfall in 1619 at Old Point Comfort, the fort served as a refuge for runaway slaves during the Civil War. The fort’s commander classified slaves who were able to reach Union lines as contraband of war beginning in 1861, meaning they wouldn’t be returned to their Confederate owners.

Virginia officials imagine the fort complementing other nearby historic treasures that are tourist favorites, such as Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield and the Jamestown Settlement. But they also imagine the peninsula being an active community. The base includes miles of beaches, a marina, a bowling alley and athletics fields. New mixed-used developments could also be built on land the state intends to keep managing as part of the proposed partnership with the National Park Service. It is a partnership fully supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group.

“This is Virginia history, but it is also national history and that’s well understood,” said Rob Nieweg, director of the trust’s Southern field office. “There’s no question the Commonwealth of Virginia is a good steward of historic resources. The point is at Fort Monroe, given its history and given the challenges inherent there, you need a partnership that’s got to involve federal, state and local contributions.”

The National Park Service declined to provide detailed cost estimates for turning the 565-acre peninsula into a park, saying it would wait until it is asked to testify before a congressional committee. A bill being sponsored by Rigell and other members of Virginia’s delegation call don’t include a dollar figure. Spokespeople for Senate sponsors of an identical bill said the park service was still developing cost estimates.

Much of the potential cost would depend on what the park’s footprint would entail. The state wants the park to encompass more land – and aging buildings – than the National Park Service has indicated it is interested in managing. Other parts of the peninsula the state intends to manage, such as stately homes in use by Army personnel that will be turned into private housing.

But state leaders could eventually ask the park service to take on an even greater role than is currently being proposed.

“Our citizens very much want a larger national park. We’re going to keep pushing for a larger park ,” Suit said. “If NPS can only take a small amount now – if we need to operate on a state basis – there’s always room down the road to see if a better fiscal situation develops.”

President Barack Obama is being urged by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Virginia’s senators, among others, to use the Antiquities Act to declare the fort a national monument in an effort to speed up the process as moving day approaches. However, that approach could be threatened by a Montana lawmaker looking to strip the president of those powers in response to past presidents using the act to lock up Western lands and protect them from energy development.

Rigell said he understands the reasoning behind that effort, but notes the Fort Monroe situation is different because it has the bipartisan support of state, local and federal lawmakers.


Public’s plea: Make Fort Monroe a national park

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 20, 2011


If federal officials had any doubts about whether the public supports Fort Monroe becoming part of the National Park Service, a pair of meetings Tuesday surely cleared things up.

More than 500 turned out for a midday public-comment session regarding the future of the historic fort, which the Army is vacating in September. Hundreds more flocked to the city’s convention center for an evening gathering to express support for Congress – or President Barack Obama – designating the waterfront property as a national park or national monument.

Speaker after speaker told Terry Moore, a park service planning chief, that the 570-acre waterfront property deserves federal protection.

On Sept. 15, most of the property will revert to the state. The governor and the state agency overseeing the base’s reuse, the Fort Monroe Authority, support the idea of a national park and envision a shared effort to manage the property. The authority will oversee the leasing of residential and office space, with controlled development limited to specified areas. Hampton, state and federal officials all want to see the fort become self-sustaining.

Tuesday, though, was all about memories.

For decades before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the post was wide open to visitors, and many residents shared anecdotes about their ties to Fort Monroe: crabbing and fishing from its piers, listening to outdoor summer concerts, walking a daughter down the aisle of its chapel, even cleaning refuse from its shoreline as a summer job.

Others cited the land’s history, especially during the Civil War, when a Union general decided to grant sanctuary to three escaped slaves, spurring a tide of human refugees to seek freedom there.

Flo Joyner, a retired sailor, talked about seeing the fort from the deck of a warship and knowing she was almost home.

“Those of us who’ve served in the Navy know what it’s like to see it from the water,” she said. “C’mon, people. Write letters, write emails, lick stamps. We’ve got a little bit further to go.”

Joyner took time off from her job with Gryphon Technologies in the Greenbrier section of Chesapeake to make it to the midday meeting. Because of traffic, it took her 90 minutes to get there. She didn’t care because it’s that important, she said.

“It’s an unbelievable sight,” she said, recalling the moment she’d see the flagpole atop the fort as her ship returned from sea duty. “Just like crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, that is a sign you’re home. It always has been.”

Indeed, the moated stone fort, completed in the 1830s, has long been a touchstone for mariners. But more than just the 65 acres inside the moat must be protected, many speakers said. They want to see the open space on the eastern edge of the base remain as it is, too. It’s unclear whether the park service would manage the open space.

Gaylene Kanoyton of Hampton said she was speaking on behalf of her 13-year-old son, who was away on a camping trip. He’s a member of a Boy Scout troop that meets weekly inside the fort’s old stone walls. Known as “The Moat Monsters,” the troop is one of the oldest in the nation, dating to 1918, she said.

After the first meeting, Moore acknowledged the size of the crowd and its devotion to preserving Fort Monroe.

“I think we sensed a good deal of support,” he said.

Hampton shows mass support for national park at Fort Monroe

‘Let’s get it done’ is the refrain heard from residents, politicians

By David Macaulay, dmacaulay@dailypress.com | 247-7838 Daily Press

6:50 a.m. EDT, July 20, 2011

HAMPTON — Hundreds of people showed up Tuesday to support bringing a national park to Fort Monroe.

The case for a national park was made by ordinary citizens, politicians and members of conservation organizations. The National Park Service wanted public opinion on the proposals and meetings were held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Approximately 400 people came for the afternoon session hosted by Terrence Moore, the park service’s Northeast Region’s division chief for planning and compliance.

Monika Malone, a board member of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, became emotional as she spoke of the long struggle to bring a park to the historic post. She presented a petition of about 7,000 citizens of Hampton who want to bring a park to Monroe.

“They told us it couldn’t be done. Guess what? It can be done. The system works,” said Louis Guy, of the Norfolk Historical Society.

State Del. Mamye E. BaCote, who represents parts of Newport News and Hampton, adopted a bullish theme taken up by others, when she told officials: “Let’s get it done.”

Hampton Councilman Will Moffett, who has served as a federal employee at Fort Monroe for more than 30 years, described it as “one of the greatest installations in America.”

“Today clearly demonstrates that we have the resolve, that we have the energy and the direction and the support. We are calling today on the National Park Service as well as our president of the United States to look here to America’s first and let’s get it done,” he said.

Del. Gordon Helsel who represents the 91st District in the House of Delegates, urged officials to act.

“I am here on behalf of my constituents to ask that you please do everything possible to ensure that the National Park Service establishes a unit at Fort Monroe. The history of Fort Monroe is the history of our area and also the United States,” he said.

Helsel said he could “think of no better living example of a community in need of a National Park Service as Fort Monroe,” he said.

The Army is vacating Fort Monroe on Sept. 15, and it will transfer ownership to the Commonwealth of Virginia in early 2012.

A number of conservation and non-profit organizations were represented at the meeting including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks Conservation Association. Pamela Goddard of the association urged President Barack Obama to act before Sept. 15 to create a National Monument at Fort Monroe.

Kristie Bradner, a Hampton teacher, said Fort Monroe is a valuable asset. “It’s a place that can educate the public of some of the most significant events of the Civil War such as the time when it was a place of refuge for African-American slaves.”

Moore, the park service’s representative, said the proposed park service boundary “does not include all of the resources at Fort Monroe” but includes the area within the road system around the stone fortress. The other boundary would begin just north of the Wherry Housing quarter and stretch north to Dog Beach, close to Buckroe Beach.

He listed a number of buildings of particular interest to the service, Buildings 1, 50 and 17, and mentioned the potential leasehold interest in Casemate 22, directly north of the Casemate Museum.

Moore said the service would own some buildings and there would be easements to “ensure the historical integrity” of resources within the park area.

Articles of Interest
•December 15, Math and science school opts for Fort Monroe
•December 8, A story awaits at Fort Monroe
•October 19, Governor and Senators make case during Congressional hearing
•August 19, FMA continues work after Army leaves
•August 18, Fort Monroe transition process continues as Army departure nears
•August 18, The Future of ‘Freedom’s Fortress’
•August 16, Editorial: Obama’s park boost
•August 16, Fort Monroe edging closer to Park Service status
•August 12, Obama considers his first national monument
•August 11, Ft. Monroe board urges transfer of land to park service
•August 9, Del. G. Glenn Oder leaves Va. General Assembly for Fort Monroe Authority
•August 9, Virginia Delegate Glenn Oder named executive director of Fort Monroe Authority
•August 5, NPS Status Sought As Army Readies To Leave Fort Monroe
•August 4, Ft. Monroe receives 200 housing units
•August 4, Board to hear “positive development” on Fort Monroe park
•August 1, Nearly 3,000 back National Park at Fort Monroe
•August 1, Va. pushes to create National Park at Fort Monroe
•July 31, Becoming the Party of Freedom
•July 30, Va. seeks support for national park creation at Fort Monroe as Congress looks to cut spending
•July 30, Fort Monroe Boy Scout troop looks to its future
•July 30, Op-ed: Put Fort Monroe in historical context
•July 29, Hampton Cup Regatta – August 5 to 7
•July 28, NPS Status Sought As Army Readies To Leave Fort Monroe
•July 25, Park Service wants smaller park presence at Fort Monroe
•July 25, Protecting Fort Monroe
•July 22, Navy patrols Va. waters with unmanned vessel
•July 22, Public can now rent at Fort Monroe
•July 20, Hampton shows mass support for national park at Fort Monroe
•July 20, Will Obama’s cash crunch affect National Park drive at Fort Monroe?
•July 20, Let’s tell Hampton’s true stories
•July 20, Public’s plea: Make Fort Monroe a national park
•July 20, National-park status for Fort Monroe backed
•July 19, Public’s chance to support fort
•July 19, National Park Service holds meetings on Ft. Monroe’s future
•July 19, National Park Service to conduct meeting on Virginia’s Fort Monroe
•July 18, Transfer of Fort Monroe to state slips to 2012
•July 18, Military arrivals, departures and events in Hampton Roads
•July 17, Freedom shrine at highway’s end
•July 16, Want a National Park at Fort Monroe? Then act now!
•July 14, City wants help for Phoebus over Fort Monroe closure
•July 13, Scott Rigell introduces Fort Monroe legislation in the House
•July 13, Speak up for preserving Fort Monroe
•July 9, Hits and Misses
•July 8, A technology vision for Fort Monroe’s future
•July 8, Fort Monroe meetings this month to be open to public
•July 7, NPS to hold public meetings on Fort Monroe
•July 7, National Park Service sets July 19 for meetings on Ft. Monroe’s future
•July 7, History of fort is highlighted in Fort Monroe legislation
•July 5, Fort Monroe’s Lasting Place in History
•July 5, Civil War-Era Fort Monroe Drawing Top Attention In Bid To Be Included In National Park System
•July 4, Civil War anniversary stirs interest in Fort Wool
•July 3, Norfolk’s Grant Austin Taylor to open for 38 Special at Fort Monroe July 4
•July 3, Monday is the last Fourth of July at Army’s Fort Monroe
•June 30, Fort Monroe gets push as a national park
•June 29, Federal officials tour Fort Monroe
•June 29, Webb, Warner want national park at Fort Monroe
•June 29, Moves on Park Service at Fort Monroe may be imminent
•June 29, Federal officials to discuss next steps for Fort Monroe
•June 29, Interior secretary to hold Ft. Monroe public input session
•June 27, Interior Secretary to visit Fort Monroe Wednesday
•June 27, Secretary of The Interior Ken Salazar Coming to Ft. Monroe Wednesday
•June 24, Fort Monroe needs a national profile, survey finds
•June 23, Fort Monroe Authority Meeting Coverage
•June 21, Fort Monroe has movie potential, state’s film office says
•June 19, Re-examining the American Civil War
•June 18, Fort Monroe cartoonist rediscovers his work
•June 14, Life for slave children in 1861
•June 11, Civil War exhibits in Hampton Roads
•June 10, Civil War anniversary: first escaped slave to take up arms against Confederacy
•June 10, Trust makes plea to Obama over Fort Monroe
•June 10, Preservationists ask Obama for Fort Monroe designation
•June 8, Hampton History
•Artists’ Tribute to Fort Monroe
•May 23, Army decommissions Fort Monroe chapel, oldest religious structure in continuous use
•May 23, Key players in contraband decision at Fort Monroe in 1861
•May 23, Fort Monroe chapel decommissioned
•May 22, Monroe’s Future
•May 22, Celebration at Fort Monroe retraces 1861 journey
•May 21, ‘Contraband’ Commemoration
•May 21, The Union flexes muscle at Fort Monroe
•May 21, Virginia fort commemorates critical chapter in Civil War, slavery
•May 20, Governor endorses federal role at Fort Monroe
•May 20, New details on Monroe contraband celebration
•May 20, Governor McDonnel Pledges Support of a National Park in Fort Monroe
•May 19, New homes cap at Fort Monroe
•May 17, How the civil war unravelled slavery
•May 16, “Freedom Fort” Witnessed Slavery’s Miserable Arc
•May 16, Fort Monroe meeting in D.C. to push for national park
•May 15, A fitting moment for Fort Monroe
•May 13, Mayor reports ‘pushback’ over park plan at Monroe
•May 7, A high-tech future for Fort Monroe?
•May 6, Fort Monroe earns 24th consecutive ‘Tree City USA’ award
•May 6, Civil War contraband: Fort Monroe to celebrate road to emancipation
•May 6, Voices of the Civil War
•May 4, Increased security could mean slower traffic to free Earth, Wind & Fire concert at Fort Monroe
•April 30, Editorial: Fort Monroe
•April 29, First shots fired in anger
•April 28, Obama is urged to make Monroe a National Monument
•April 26, Obama urged to make Fort Monroe a monument
•April 26, The Forgotten
•April 25, State agency close to terms on Monroe
•April 24, Fort Monroe Authority director will step down this fall
•April 23, Easter sunrise service at Fort Monroe could be its last
•April 22, Despite Tough Budget, Hope Grows for Fort Monroe National Park
•April 22, Hampton to spend $2.4 million a year on Monroe services
•April 22, Fort Monroe Authority executive director to step down later this year
•April 22, Bill Armbruster announces Departure from Fort Monroe Authority
•April 19, Warner makes case for Fort Monroe National Park
•April 17, Fort Monroe Hosts, “Escape for Freedom: From Slave to Contraband,” Sesquicentennial Celebration May 21 & May 24
•April 15, Fort Monroe becomes crucial Union linchpin
•April 15, Fort Monroe becomes Union linchpin in the Civil War(pictures)
•April 13, The Accidental Abolitionist
•April 13, Bells ring to mark 150th anniversary of Civil War’s start
•April 10, Civil War deeply rooted in Virginia
•April 10, Hampton Roads tells Civil War tales
•April 10, Viewpoint: Mission Impossible, 1861: The reinforcement of Fort Pickens
•April 8, Environmental Awards Presented
•April 7, Brewer, Chesapeake Bay Foundation among Virginia environmental award winners
•April 6, Governor McDonnell Announces Environmental Excellence Award Winners
•April 4, Who Really Freed the Slaves
•April 4, A Song of Slavery
•April 1, How Slavery Really Ended in America
•March 31, Phased move from Monroe to Eustis outlined
•March 29, Helsel expresses fears about Monroe plan
•March 29, A turning point for Fort Monroe
•March 27, Washington Post: Fort Monroe is one step closer to becoming a national park
•March 27, Editorial: Fort Monroe
•March 26, Editorial: Fort Monroe
•March 26, Panel votes to seek national park status for Fort Monroe
•March 25, Fort Monroe Authority Votes Unanimously to Request all of Fort Monroe to Become a National Park
•March 24, Vote slated on National Park at Fort Monroe
•March 24, Fort Monroe Authority backs National Park
•March 22, Fort Monroe being considered for a national park
•March 21, Monroe slip holders get reprieve
•FM Housing available to DoD and Retirees, page 4
•March 18,Hunt for Hampton History 2011
•March 16,Mayor calls park service meeting ‘positive’
•March 10, Helsel preps for General Assembly
•March 10,Officials make case for extensive park at Fort Monroe
•March 10, Women of ‘firsts” to highlight Fort Monroe event
•March 8, To warn of CSS Virginia, he tapped out a t-mail
•March 4, Training command plans big moves
•March 1, Fort Monroe boat owners have trouble finding new places to house vessels
•March 1, Affordable housing plan dropped at Monroe

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