2007-03-23 / Community

NPS Sets Series Of 'Listening Sessions'

The National Park Service (NPS), which controls Gateway National Recreation Area has announced that it is hosting listening sessions in several cities nationwide to offer citizens the opportunity to provide feedback on how America's national parks should be preserved in time for their centennial in 2016-less than 10 years away.

These listening sessions are part of the presidential mandate to inform the Administration's new National Park Centennial Initiative, launched in February with a significant funding increase for park operating needs. People that cannot attend the listening sessions are encouraged to offer comments at http://www.nps.gov/2016 . Dates and times for the public listening sessions will be published as soon as they are made available. No dates have yet to be announced.

At a public hearing on Wednesday, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) offered a short list of five ways the country could fix the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, Gateway National Recreation Area, and all of the national parks before the National Park System centennial in 2016.

"To be successful, the National Park Centennial Initiative must fully address the challenges now facing our national parks," said NPCA Northeast Regional Director Alexander Brash. "The Administration must consider ambitious, visionary, system-wide priority projects and programs to ensure the preservation and restoration of these American treasures."

NPCA encouraged the Administration to consider major efforts to restore local parks such as Gateway National Recreation Area, Ellis Island, and Governors Island as "Signature Projects" for the new initiative. In particular, New York's Gateway National Park needs restored habitats, new visitor services, and modern recreational facilities to welcome park visitors. The parks group also requested funding and support for a NPS coordinated ferry service, linking all city, state, and federal parks in the New York Harbor.

The Administration's Centennial Initiative coincides with the announcement of an international public design competition recently launched for Gateway National Recreation Area. NPCA, Van Alen Institute, and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation have joined efforts to create a new vision for the park. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has made a major philanthropic gift of $500,000 to support this project.

For more information, visit: http:// www.vanalen.org/gateway.

"Our national parks are unique places where one may connect with nature and history," said Brash. "National parks should be a national priority, fully funded by Congress, as they protect the natural, historical, and cultural inheritance of our nation."

NPCA raised concerns that America's national parks face many challenges, including an annual operating shortfall in excess of $800 million and a multi-million backlog of maintenance and preservation needs. The organization is encouraging citizens to petition Congress to make national parks a national priority at www. npca.org/nationalpriority .

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