S. 2954

Ste. Genevieve National Historic Site Establishment Act of 2016

STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2954, TO ESTABLISH THE STE. GENEVIEVE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN THE STATE OF MISSOURI, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 15, 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. 2954, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Ste. Genevieve National Historic Site in the State of Missouri, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 2954 with amendments.  

This legislation would establish the Ste. Genevieve National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System to preserve, protect, and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations the themes of French settlement, vernacular architecture, and community form and farming on the frontier associated with Ste. Genevieve.  It would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire approximately thirteen acres of land for the historic site and other significant related sites within the surrounding historic district.  This bill also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide interpretive tours and education programs within the historic district.  Finally, it would also authorize the secretary to provide technical assistance and to enter into cooperative agreements to preserve significant sites related to the purposes of the park.   

Ste. Genevieve is one of the oldest National Historic Landmark districts in the country. When initially designated it was recognized for the unique concentration of French vertical log architecture.  Since then, research has identified the national significance of not only the large and rare collection of French vernacular vertical log houses, but also the contemporaneous examples of British American and German American architecture that contribute to the compelling historical associations with French exploration and settlement of the United States’ interior in the late 18th and early 19th century. There is no comparably protected or managed area interpreting these themes.

The boundary of the Historic Site is encompassed by the Ste. Genevieve Historic District and National Historic Landmark, which includes lands between State Highways 61 and 31 and the Mississippi River.  The National Historic Landmark, one of the oldest, was established on October 9, 1960.  The proposed historic site includes a mix of privately and publicly-owned parcels. The State of Missouri owns many of those properties and could transfer them to NPS ownership by donation.  Private properties may be acquired over time through donation or purchase from willing sellers as funding allows.  

The Ste. Genevieve Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment estimated the annual cost to operate the site would be $800,000 to $1.2 million per year, which is comparable to other national historic sites.  This operational budget would primarily fund a NPS staff of 6-12 FTE, for interpretive and educational programs, and outreach. The additional facilities and properties will increase park operational and maintenance costs, but the amount will depend on the number of facilities acquired and their condition.  Additional funds for maintenance, repairs and capital improvements would be awarded through the NPS competitive process, subject to service-wide priorities and the availability of appropriations. 

There is widespread support for the establishment of the historic site. The National Park Service received letters of support for the establishment of Ste. Genevieve National Historic Site from the City of Ste. Genevieve, the County Commission of Ste. Genevieve, the Foundation for the Restoration of Ste. Genevieve, Les Amis, the Missouri Parks Association, the National Society Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri, the New Bourbon Regional Port Authority, the Sierra Club (Eastern Missouri Group), the State Historical Society of Missouri, Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce, the Ste. Genevieve Downtown Renewal Project, the Ste. Genevieve Museum, and the Ste. Genevieve Tourism Tax Commission.

We recommend two amendments to the bill.  First, we recommend that the language for cooperative agreements in §3(f) of the bill be revised to authorize the Secretary to enter into an agreement for a project related to the management of the historic site in addition to an agreement to identify, mark, interpret, improve, or restore a “property” within the historic district or site.   Cooperative agreements may include the expenditure of federal funds to help maintain a property, but also may be provided for projects such as interpretive signage or other informational materials found in wayside exhibits.   The reference to a “project” assures that the interests of the federal government are protected in all instances where federal funds are provided.

Second, we recommend adding a definition for the special resource study referred to in the bill.  This definition is important to determine which nationally properties are being considered for acquisition to the national historic site.  The special resource study has an inventory of the properties contributing to the national significance of the study area in Chapter 6.  We would be happy to provide the committee with language for our recommended amendments. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.

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