Chicano Park Preservation Act
STATEMENT OF DAVID VELA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, EXCERISING THE AUTHROITY OF THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 486, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY OF CHICANO PARK, LOCATED IN SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
OCTOBER 29, 2019
Chairwoman Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 486, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of Chicano Park, located in San Diego, California.
While the Department recognizes the national significance of Chicano Park and its monumental murals for their association with the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, we do not support authorizing a special resource study of the site, as H.R. 486 would do. Special resource studies are designed specifically to assess whether a site is appropriate for addition to the National Park System, which does not appear to be the goal of this bill. In addition, funding for special resource studies is not a priority as the Department’s resources are needed to reduce the National Park Service’s $11.9 billion deferred maintenance backlog and for other critical national park needs. The Department urges Congress to pass legislation addressing the deferred maintenance needs of its bureaus.
Chicano Park and its murals are located under freeway overpasses on 7.4 acres of land owned by the City of San Diego and California Department of Transportation. The murals are painted on freeway vertical supports, abutments, and ramps and compose the largest collection of Chicano master mural artwork in the United States. In 2016, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark for its outstanding representation of the cultural and political legacies of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.
Under 54 U.S.C. 100507, a special resource study is required to assess the national significance, suitability, feasibility and need for National Park Service management of an area to determine whether it is appropriate to recommend the site for inclusion in the National Park System. However, the study authorized by H.R. 486 would not allow consideration of any options that involve Federal acquisition of lands, interests in lands, or any other property related to Chicano Park and its murals. Given that limitation, it would not be appropriate to conduct a study to assess whether Chicano Park meets the criteria for inclusion in the National Park System.
H.R. 486 specifically calls for determining the suitability and feasibility of designating Chicano Park as an affiliated site, or area, of the National Park System. Generally, the designation of “affiliated area” has been given to nationally significant areas that are neither Federally owned nor directly administered by the National Park Service, but which utilize National Park Service assistance. Affiliated areas are not considered units of the National Park System, but owners of affiliated areas are required to manage the site to the same standards as a unit of the National Park System. Occasionally special resource studies recommend affiliated area designation when a site is nationally significant but does not meet the other criteria for inclusion in the National Park System. Affiliated areas can be designated legislatively or administratively.
If the committee decides to move forward on authorizing a special resource study, the Department would appreciate the opportunity to offer technical amendments to the bill.
Chairwoman Haaland, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.