STATEMENT OF RICHARD G. RING, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK OPERATIONS AND EDUCATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, RECREATION, AND PUBLIC LANDS, COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 400, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO ESTABLISH THE RONALD REAGAN BOYHOOD HOME NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE.

MARCH 8, 2001


 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 400, a bill to authorize the Secretary to establish the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site in Dixon, Illinois. The Department supports the effort to honor the boyhood home of former President Reagan.

H.R. 400 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site in Dixon, Illinois. It also would require the Secretary to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation for the purpose of operating, maintaining, and using the Historic Site.

In 1998, Congress passed Public Law 105-391, the National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998, which requires congressional authorization of areas to be studied for potential new units of the National Park System. The law also designates the criteria to be followed by the National Park Service in determining whether to recommend an area as a unit of the National Park System. We recognize the importance of the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan and therefore appreciate the goals of H.R. 400. We suggest, however, that the Committee ensure that the intent of Congress, as expressed in Public Law 105-391, is carried out by amending the bill to authorize a study of the site to determine whether it conforms to the criteria of Public Law 105-391. Such a review will ensure that the continued expansion of the National Park System does not increase the backlog of deferred maintenance needs.

With respect to historical sites, the studies do not only look at whether the event or person associated with the site was historically significant. They also look at the integrity of the buildings, and other factors, such as whether there are other sites that might more appropriately tell the story associated with a particular site.

The National Park system consists of many previous residences of former Presidents. However, there are also many residences of former Presidents that are not part of the system. A study would look at whether the Federal government is the most appropriate entity to manage the site. Some sites are managed by other entities, such as state governments and private foundations. Conducting a professional study also allows Congress to be sure it is protecting an area that meets the criteria of the National Park System.

A study also would look at the management structure contemplated by the bill. As written, the bill calls for the site to be managed through a partnership between the Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation and the National Park Service. If this is the best management structure for the park unit, it should be endorsed by a study.

Finally, a study will enable the Park Service and the Congress to identify the costs in acquiring, restoring, and operating a potential site. Such a review is important if we are to gain control of the deferred maintenance backlog and eliminate it within five years, as the Presidentís Initiative seeks to do. In most cases, we are seeking a temporary moratorium on new park unit designations or new studies on potential designations, so that we can focus existing resources on taking care of what we now own. In this case, however, we recognize the potential significance of this site and would support an authorization of a new study.

We would be pleased to work with the committee on further consideration of this bill. This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.