Delaware’s national monument is official [video]

A newly designated national monument is the first national park site in Delaware; reason enough for Vice President Joe Biden to make a stop in his home state.

Biden and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, along with Sen. Carper (D-Del), delivered remarks at the Old Sheriff’s House in New Castle today, part of three historic areas comprising the state’s monument.

“President Obama has recognized Delaware’s important role as the first state to ratify the Constitution and the three centuries of the history of its people and their contributions to our country,” Salazar said. “In addition to helping tell the story of America and her people, the national monument we are celebrating today will also be an engine for economic development, creating jobs and driving tourism to the First State and the region.”

According to the National Park Service, park visitors generated $30.1 billion and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. Locally, Carper says states with national monuments or parks bring in at least $1 million in tourism and economic development every year.

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“Up until yesterday, the First State was the only state in our great nation without a unit of the national park system, and that was a loss not just for Delaware but for our entire country,” said Carper. “This national monument corrects that omission.”

The First State National Monument consists of the New Castle Court House complex, which includes the Sheriff’s House, the courthouse and the New Castle Green, the Woodlawn Trust property and Dover Green. The monument tells the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the Delaware when it was a colony; it also highlights Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution.

The lands establishing  the monument were donated to the federal government by the state, the City of Dover and The Conservation Fund, with more than $20 million in support from the Mt. Cuba Center.

Yesterday, President Obama used his executive authority to designate the monument in Delaware and in four other states.

Still without a national park, technically speaking, Carper tweeted, “This announcement puts us on about 5-yd line, about get in end zone.” After more than a decade of trying, Carper is still pushing his First State National Historical Park Act, which is out of committee and now goes to the Senate. His park bill includes other sites, like Old Swedes Church, the John Dickinson Mansion south of Dover Air Force Base and the Ryves Holt House in Lewes.

“We provide an offset so it doesn’t increase the deficit, and our hope and expectation is that our legislation is part of a larger package of land bills will move through the Senate and I know the House has public lands bills that they want to move, there’s just a better spirit for getting things done,” said Carper, who believes this is the year.

However, Delaware is in the system. Once a site has been designated, Congress has the authority to designate the monument as a national park. Almost half of the current national parks started out as national monuments.

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