STATEMENT OF DURAND JONES, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES  COMMITTEE CONCERNING H.R. 1456 AND S. 1051, THE BOOKER T. WASHINGTON NATIONAL MONUMENT BOUNDARY ADJUSTMENT ACT OF 2001.

 

February 14, 2002

 


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 1456 and S. 1051, identical bills, both of which would expand the boundary of Booker T. Washington National Monument, Franklin County, Virginia.

 

The Department gave testimony on H.R. 1456 before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands on July 24, 2001.  The Department supports both H.R. 1456 and S. 1051. The addition would not contribute to the National Park Service (NPS) maintenance backlog because the land would be added to the park agricultural permit program, and no additional facilities, operating funds or staffing will be needed.  The current owners have indicated that they would be willing to sell the property to the United States.  If authorized, this acquisition would be subject to NPS servicewide priorities and the availability of appropriations. 

 

This legislation will adjust the boundary of Booker T. Washington National Monument to authorize acquiring from willing sellers a parcel of approximately 15 acres abutting the northeast boundary of the park.  The addition and preservation of this 15-acre tract will ensure that park visitors may experience an agricultural landscape while inside the park, in a region that is subject to extreme development pressure.  Seven of the 15 acres were part of the original Burrough’s farm where Booker T. Washington grew up.

 

Booker T. Washington National Monument was authorized on April 2, 1956, to create a “public national memorial to Booker T. Washington, noted Negro educator and apostle of good will…” Booker T. Washington National Monument preserves and protects the birth site and childhood home of Booker T. Washington while interpreting his life experiences and significance in American history as the most powerful African American between 1895 and 1915.  The park provides a resource for public education and a focal point for continuing discussions about the legacy of Booker T. Washington and the evolving context of race in American society.

 

The park is 224 acres of rolling hills, woodlands, and agricultural fields.  The primary archeological resources include the Burrough’s house site, or “Big House,” two slave cabin sites with a 1960’s reconstructed cabin on one of the sites.  The agricultural landscape plays a critical role in the park’s interpretation of Washington’s life as an enslaved child during the Civil War.  Many of his stories and experiences are centered on this small tobacco farm.  In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington frequently refers to the “rural” life and the influences it had upon him.

 

A 1998 Viewshed Study conducted as a component of the park’s March 2000 General Management Plan (GMP) identified this land as the most critical for addition to the boundary based on its elevation and proximity to the birthplace site.  The parcel has been on and off the market for several years and is currently for sale.  The land is currently used for open agricultural fields.

 

The park is located near the regional recreation area of Smith Mountain Lake, which has grown in population and development in the last ten years.  The park lies a half-mile from a commercial crossroads called Westlake Corner.  This area has become the primary hub of services for the Smith Mountain Lake community and continues to grow.  Acquisition of this parcel would provide the necessary buffer between this development and the park so that the visitors will be able to experience the area as it was during Booker T. Washington’s life.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.  This concludes my prepared remarks.  I would be glad to answer any question that you or members of the subcommittee might have.