Delaware national park within reach

After more than a decade fighting for a national park, Sen. Tom Carper’s efforts are finally starting to bear fruit. 

Monday, President Obama will designate a national monument in Delaware under the Antiquities Act of 1906, bringing historic places in Delaware into the National Park Service. This is a huge first for the First State, the only state without a national park.

“A national monument is a first cousin, maybe, to a national park,” said Sen. Carper. “On Monday, not only will the national park system gain an important story about the crucial role the First State played in the founding of our country, but our state will now welcome the many economic opportunities that surround a new national monument.”

Carper says states with national monuments or parks bring in at least $1 million in tourism and economic development each year. 

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The national monument sites include the Woodlawn property, Old Sheriff’s House, Old New Castle Courthouse and Dover Green, among others. The National Park Service will fully own Woodlawn and the Old Sheriff’s House, while current owners and management will retain control over the other sites.

“History will be made in the place where it all began,” said Blaine Phillips senior vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional director for The Conservation Fund, which owned the Woodlawn property and donated it to the National Park Service thanks to a $20 million dollar donation from Mt. Cuba Center. “President Obama’s designation of the Woodlawn property as part of the First State National Monument will be a celebration of Delaware’s rich contributions to American history and its inherent natural beauty.”

With the First State National Historical Park Act perpetually tied up in Congress, and when the opportunity to protect and preserve the Woodlawn property along the Brandywine River presented itself, Carper and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided a year ago to use the Antiquities Act as a way to at least get Delaware into the national park system.

“[Salazar] said maybe we should, while you push for your legislation for the comprehensive approach, maybe we should have an insurance policy here and make sure that we cover everything, as much as we can, under the the Antiquities Act.”

Despite this victory, Carper says he will continue leading the way in the fight for a national park, that would include the remaining sites proposed in the park legislation. With bipartisan support, Carper reintroduced his park bill in Congress.

“This is not the finish line, but it’s a very good step toward the end goal, which is a National Park for Delaware,” said Sen. Carper, who is confident this is the year it will finally pass. 

The sites in the national monument stretch into Pennsylvania as well and will preserve resources associated with early Dutch, Swedish and English settlements and highlight Delaware’s role in the events leading up to the signing of the Constitution.

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