Bill would create national park in Delaware

Delaware was the first state to sign the Constitution, yet remains the only state without a national park.

A bill recently introduced in Congress hopes to change that.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) introduced the First State National Historical Park Act in the Senate and Rep. John Carney (D-Delaware) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Both were in Lewes Friday to talk about the latest efforts to create a national park in the First State.

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“There are 49 other states, most of them don’t have the history that we do,” Carper said. “Every one of them has a national park.”

The measure would create a hub-style park with several locations celebrating early American Dutch, Swedish and English settlements located throughout Delaware, and Delaware’s role in the events leading up to the founding of our nation.

The legislation authorizes sites and attractions in each of Delaware’s three counties to be included in the new national park: The Old Sherriff’s House, the Fort Christina National Historic Landmark, the Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark, and the Old New Castle Courthouse in New Castle County; the John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Landmark, and the Dover Green in Kent County; and the Ryves Holt House in Sussex County.

Not only would the national park designation help tell Delaware’s history to more people, it would also bring in more tourism dollars. Carper says national park enthusiasts would include Delaware when planning their vacations.

“They look at states from Alabama through Wyoming (on the internet) and when they get to Delaware there’s no national park,” he said. “And a lot of them just don’t come here. They don’t think twice about coming here.”

Carper adds that even in these difficult economic times, cost should not be considered an obstacle.

“This proposal would not increase the budget deficit, will not increase the nation’s debt. I think that gives us a leg up.”

Freshman Congressman Carney has made this bill his first. He believes the only remaining hurdle is explaining to his fellow Congressmen how important Delaware is to the nation’s history.

“I think we have an idea that does exactly that and it’s something I can sell to my colleagues,” he said. “I can tell you that members of the House have no idea that Delaware was the first state to sign the Constitution.”

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