STATEMENT OF BRENDA BARRETT, NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR HERITAGE AREAS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1925, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE FREEDOMíS WAY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA.

 

June 20, 2002

 

 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Departmentís views on S. 1925, a bill to establish the Freedomís Way National Heritage Area in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of New Hampshire.

 

While the Department recognizes the appropriateness of designating the Freedomís Way National Heritage Area, we recommend that the Committee defer action on S. 1925 during the remainder of the 107th Congress.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. 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 over the 15-year period after the date of the billís enactment.

 

The proposed Freedomís Way National Heritage Area includes 36 Massachusetts and 6 New Hampshire communities northwest of Boston.It includes the Minute Man National Historical Park, the Oxbow and Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuges, the Concord, Assabet and Sudbury Wild and Scenic Rivers, as well as National Historic Landmarks and Districts, and many sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

This is a region that substantively influenced our democratic forms of governance and the development of intellectual traditions that underpin the concepts of American freedom, democracy, conservation, social justice, and ethnic diversity.Historically prominent leaders in literature and intellectual thought found the region to be a source of inspiration including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.It was also the locale for expressions of religious freedom and social experimentation with the settlements of the Shakers, Millerites and Transcendentalists.Its natural and community resources are exceptional examples of the rural beauty of the New England landscape.The events that occurred here during the American Revolution include the ride of Paul Revere and the engagements at Lexington and Concord, which are known to virtually every elementary school child in the nation.

 

The concept of a Freedomís Way National Heritage Area was defined in a feasibility study undertaken by the proposed management entity, the Freedomís Way Heritage Association, Inc. Priorities outlined in this study speak to linkages through education and preservation of the regionís nationally distinctive natural and cultural resources through partnerships.†† The region has a strong partnership base among its many cultural institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations, local governments, and citizens. The governors of both states have endorsed the designation.

 

In the opinion of the National Park Service there are four critical steps that need to be taken and documented prior to the Congress designating a heritage area. These stages 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 reviewed the national heritage area feasibility study undertaken by the proposed management entity in July 1997.Since it did not fully address the interim national heritage area criteria, representatives of our Northeast Region conducted field reconnaissance visits in November 2000.Based on the findings of the reconnaissance team, the Freedomís Way Heritage Association submitted an addendum in April 2001 to the 1997 Freedomís Way National Heritage Area Feasibility Study entitled ďThe Proposed Freedomís Way National Heritage Area and Compliance with the National Park Service Interim Criteria for National Heritage Area Designation.ĒThe Service has evaluated that addendum, as well as the original feasibility study, and finds that the criteria have been fully addressed and met. We believe that the management entity will have an opportunity during the development of a heritage area management plan to refine the many available themes for the heritage area so that a more selective and cohesive vision of the region and its rich assemblage of natural and cultural resources may be achieved.

 

We also note that Section 4(b)(1) of the bill does not contain a map reference number and does not require that a copy of the map be available at the appropriate offices of the National Park Service.Should the committee decide to take further action on this bill, we would be willing to work with the committee on the appropriate language for this section of the bill.

 

That completes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or any of the members of the subcommittee may have.