Delaware’s long road to a National Park

Approved by Congress as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, Delaware’s First State National Monument will become a full blown National Park.

Until March 2013, Delaware held the dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation without a National Park. Now, the multi-location First State National Monument will transform into the First State National Park.

State leaders gathered Thursday at the headquarters of that new park at the courthouse in Old New Castle to celebrate the upgrade. 

“This is going to be great in terms of bringing people to Delaware,” said Governor Jack Markell. He said his family routinely looked at National Park locations around the country when planning vacation trips.

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Park locations have a large appeal with international travelers said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, who worked for years to get Delaware’s park approved. “They come to visit our National Parks more than any other destination. Isn’t that amazing?”

Carper had introduced legislation that would create Delaware’s National Park every year since 2009, but those bills never received approval. Congressman John Carney, D-Delaware, said trying to get this done through the regular order of Congress just wasn’t working. Carney was discouraged after a House hearing on the measure, “Some of the members of the committee I’m not sure they knew exactly where Delaware was, let alone the idea of creating a new National Park in our state.”

Carper and Carney took their case to Congressional leaders and were able to convince them of the benefits of a National Park. The First State National Historical Park was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015. It was approved by Congress last week and is expected to be signed by the President.

The multiple site park includes the Woodlawn Trustees Property which straddles the New Castle County and Delaware County, Pa. line. The headquarters for the park will be located in Old New Castle, which is home to the Old New Castle Courthouse, the Old Sheriff’s House and the New Castle Green. The park includes a pair of sites in Wilmington: Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark and Fort Christina National Historic Landmark.

In Kent County the park includes the Dover Green and John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Landmark. In Sussex, the park includes Ryves Holt House.

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