STATEMENT OF BRENDA BARRETT, NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR HERITAGE AREAS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THESENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1526, TO ESTABLISH THE ARABIA MOUNTAIN NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA

 

APRIL 18, 2002

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1526, to establish the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area in the State of Georgia.

 

The Department recognizes the appropriateness of designating the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, as the area has the characteristics necessary to be established as a national heritage area and the potential to meet the expectations of the National Park Serviceís national heritage area program.To meet the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, we need to continue to focus our resources on caring for existing areas in the National Park System.Therefore, we recommend that the committee defer action on S. 1526 during the remainder of the 107th Congress. While designation of the heritage area will not result in additional acquisition or capital costs, the authorization provides for up to $1 million per year in grant assistance costs not to exceed $10 million through September 30, 2016.

 

The proposed Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area would include parts of DeKalb, Rockdale, and Henry Counties that lie within the eastern side of the Atlanta metropolitan area.†† The heritage area would encompass the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, the city of Lithonia, the Panola Mountain State Conservation Park, portions of the South River, and several active granite quarries.

 

The Arabia Mountain area, which is known primarily for its granite quarries, is rich in natural, cultural, and historic resources.Arabia Mountain and other nearby prominent granite formations have been linked to human settlement and activity for thousands of years, starting over 7,000 years ago with the quarrying and trading of soapstone.The area contains specific types of granite outcroppings that are very rare and do not occur anywhere outside the Piedmont Region.Granite from this area has been quarried and used around the nation, including in buildings at the military academies at West Point and Annapolis.

 

The area retains an open and small-scale character, in contrast to the more intensively developed areas closer in to the city of Atlanta.The rapid growth of the metropolitan area in recent years has prompted a recognition among those involved in this proposal that there may be only a narrow window of opportunity to retain open lands and protect important resources before land costs and economics of development make such efforts much more difficult.The local governmental entities in the proposed national heritage area and the State of Georgia support national heritage area designation for this area.

 

S. 1526 would establish the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area within the boundary defined by the map developed for the feasibility study for the heritage area.The legislation would name the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance as the management entity for the heritage area and provide for the Secretary of the Interior and the Alliance to carry out the legislation through a cooperative agreement.Provisions of the bill regarding the authority and duties of the management entity, the development of a management plan, and Federal technical and financial assistance that would be available to the heritage area are similar to provisions that have been included in legislation designating other heritage areas in recent years.

 

National heritage areas are places where natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources combine to form a nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.Heritage conservation efforts are grounded in a communityís pride in its history and traditions, and its interest in seeing them retained.The areas are designed to protect large, regional landscapes and resources that tell the story of its residents.They are best managed by entities with broad community representation and the ability to foster partnerships throughout the region.

 

In the view of the National Park Service, there are four critical steps that need to be completed before Congress establishes a national heritage area.Those steps are:

1.completion of a suitability/feasibility study;

2.public involvement in the suitability/feasibility study;

3.demonstration of widespread public support among heritage area residents for††† the proposed designation; and

4.commitment to the proposal from the appropriate players which may include governments, industry, and private, non-profit organizations, in addition to the local citizenry.

The National Park Service believes that those criteria have been fulfilled through the work that was done by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and other entities, including the National Park Service, in conducting the feasibility study that was issued in February, 2001.The work that has been done by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and its many partners in recent years has served to confirm our view that this area would be an appropriate candidate for designation as a national heritage area, once sufficient progress has been made in addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance in the National Park System.††

 

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.