A bill to facilitate the addition of park administration at the Coltsville National Historical Park
STATEMENT OF PEGGY O’DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2620, A BILL TO FACILITATE THE ADDITION OF PARK ADMINISTRATION AT THE COLTSVILLE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK.
March 17, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2620, a bill to facilitate the addition of park administration at the Coltsville National Historical Park.
The Department supports S. 2620.
S. 2620 would amend the law that authorizes the establishment of the Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, Connecticut, by making a technical change in one of the requirements for establishing the park. Section 3032(b)(2)(B) of Public Law 113-291 requires the donation of 10,000 square feet of space for park administration and visitor services in the East Armory building of the Colt Armory complex in order for the Secretary of the Interior to designate Coltsville as a unit of the National Park System. S. 2620 would allow this requirement to be met by a donation of 10,000 square feet anywhere in the armory complex, not just specifically in the East Armory building.
The East Armory is the most visible and best-known building within the Colt Armory complex. It houses the site’s iconic blue onion dome, and it has been the primary focus of redevelopment of the complex. Immediately adjacent to the East Armory are two brownstone buildings, the Forge Shop and the Foundry, that date to 1855. They are key historic resources within the Colt Armory complex and closely associated with the East Armory.
As the National Park Service (NPS) began working with the property owners (Colt Gateway LLC) and the city of Hartford to implement the legislation, it became clear that a much better location for park administration and visitor services than the East Armory itself would be the adjacent brownstone buildings. This is for two reasons: first, the redevelopment of the East Armory building is far enough along that locating park administration and visitor service facilities within the building would disrupt existing occupancy, including a school and residences. Second, the two brownstone buildings are better suited to welcome visitors because they are at grade and directly adjacent to parking and, therefore, provide universal accessibility. The brownstones together contain approximately 18,000 square feet of space, well in excess of the 10,000 square feet of space required by the law.
A joint letter sent to the NPS by Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative John Larson, on February 16, 2016, stated that it was their view that an agreement for the donation of the 18,000 square feet of space for park administration and visitor services in the two brownstones immediately adjacent to the East Armory would meet the law’s intention, so long as the agreement also provides for visitor access to the East Armory dome. They noted that the brownstone buildings are so close that it would be logical to infer that the term “East Armory” includes these smaller buildings in the immediate vicinity of the actual East Armory building. The letter from the House and Senate sponsors of the original Colt legislation has given the NPS confidence to move forward with plans to accept the donation of the brownstone buildings. Even so, the Department would like to have the legal certainty about meeting the donation requirement that S. 2620 would provide.
The NPS continues to make steady progress in meeting the other requirements for establishing the Coltsville National Historical Park. Agreements with the property owners (Colt Gateway LLC) and the city of Hartford are nearing completion. The donation of the required space for park administration and visitor services is the next critical step necessary to officially establish Coltsville National Historical Park as a unit of the National Park System, which we would like to complete in the NPS’s Centennial year.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee may have.