STATEMENT OF RICHARD G. RING, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK OPERATIONS AND EDUCATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION, AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE HOUSE RESOURCES COMMITTEE CONCERNING, H.R. 3942, A BILL TO ADJUST THE BOUNDARY OF THE JOHN MUIR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 

May 7, 2002

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Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of Interiorís views on H.R. 3942, a bill to adjust the boundaries of the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California.

 

The Department supports H.R. 3942.It will enable us to fulfill one of the General Management Plan objectives for the park by providing a parking area to serve visitors to the Muir House and those who wish to hike Mt. Wanda.Because of the steep terrain in the area, no other suitable location for a parking lot exists inside current park boundaries.The City of Martinez supports our efforts to acquire the small parcel for this parking lot.

 

The proposed land to be acquired in this boundary adjustment has a strange history.The parcel is only 9,500 square feet -- about 0.2 acre.To acquire a parcel of this size, the National Park Service generally would negotiate the purchase of the land with the current owners using our minor boundary adjustment authority.However, because the National Park Service has been unable to identify the current owners of this plot, legislation is necessary to proceed at this time.


The National Park Service has managed the Muir home, adobe, and orchards in Martinez for almost 40 years.The original holdings of John Muir, however, were much larger and included Mt. Wanda, named for his daughter with whom he would take walks to the top.Today, state highway 4 and Franklin Canyon Road run between Mt. Wanda and the home.The National Park Service completed a survey of Mt. Wanda in the 1990s in connection with its acquisition under previous boundary legislation.This survey discovered the tiny 0.2 acre plot located between Franklin Canyon Road and Mt. Wanda.

 

The 0.2 acre plot was proposed in the 1991 General Management Plan to be developed as a parking area for users of the trails on Mt. Wanda and also to serve as a bus parking and overflow lot for the visitor center and historic Muir home.At the time, it was assumed that the plot was included in the lands that had been transferred to the park and would be available for the proposed parking area.

 

The National Park Service has been unable to locate the current or previous owner or heirs.We do know that the 0.2 acre plot is completely surrounded by publicly owned land.The National Park Service owns the land on the west, south and east sides and the City of Martinez owns the right-of-way for Franklin Canyon Road on the north side.Directly across the road on the north side is the right-of-way for state highway 4.

 


We understand that in the 1960ís the California Department of Public Works (now known as CalTrans) acquired the right-of-way for state highway 4, including a large parcel that was mostly acquired in fee from the estate of Mary Pereira.The far southeast corner of that parcel, comprising the 0.2 acre plot was not acquired in fee, but as a temporary construction easement.†† The construction easement expired on December 31, 1967. Neither the owner nor the Contra Costa County Assessor apparently was aware that this parcel had never been acquired.No parcel number has been assigned to it and no property taxes have ever been assessed or paid on it.

 

The park superintendent has called all the Pereiras listed in the various Bay Area phone books and has spoken with the heirs of Mary Pereira.We also have advertised for the owner.Since no owners can be located, the National Park Service cannot negotiate the purchase of land under its minor boundary adjustment authority.

 

This legislation would adjust the park boundary line northward, approximately 80 feet to the south edge of the Franklin Canyon Road right-of-way.The National Park Service would be authorized to purchase the land if an heir to the former owner could be found, or the land condemned if an owner or heir cannot be located.

 

The Department is committed to the Presidentís Initiative to eliminate the National Park Serviceís deferred maintenance backlog.However, this acquisition and the subsequent construction of the parking lot are part of the parkís plan to address health and safety issues and are, therefore, consistent with the Presidentís Initiative.

 

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