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Public Statements

Hearing of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee - Coltsville Historic District's Bid to Become a National Historic Park

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Earlier today Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra testified in front of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on behalf of the Coltsville Historic District's bid to become a National Historic Park.

H.R. 2504, the Coltsville National Historic Park Act, was one of 13 bills heard by the committee today.

Last September Congressman Larson and Mayor Segarra welcomed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to Hartford as the Secretary and the lawmakers toured the Coltsville facility. During that visit, the Secretary threw his support behind the project.

Last October during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks , Acting Associate Director for Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands, National Park Service, Dept. of the Inrerior William D. Shaddox reiterated Secretary Salazar's support.

Below are the remarks of both Congressman Larson and Mayor Segarra as prepared for delivery.

Congressman Larson:

Thank you, Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva and members of the Committee for holding this important hearing.

Before I begin I would like to take a moment to recognize the Mayor of the City of Hartford, Connecticut, Pedro Segarra, who is here today to testify as a witness in support of Coltsville being established as a National Historic Park which highlights the local, state, federal and private partnership that Coltsville presently enjoys and which is critical for its overall success. Mayor Segarra will outline the importance of Coltsville to the local community in Hartford and share the results of a recently commissioned economic analysis done on Coltsville and its potential to create jobs and increase economic activity in Hartford. This report strongly supports the Department of Interior's findings that every dollar spent by the federal government on National Parks creates four dollars of economic value into the local economy.

I also would like to recognize Peggy O'Dell, deputy director for operations of the National Park Service who will be speaking in support of the Coltsville National Historic Park Act. This year Secretary Ken Salazar of the Department of Interior and Don Hellman, legislative director for the National Park Service made separate trips up to see Coltsville first hand. On September 24th after touring Coltsville Secretary Salazar remarked to the press, our Governor, Mayor Segarra and the Congressional delegation that Coltsville, "is a great candidate for inclusion into the National Park System," and that he "will work hard to make it happen even in these fiscally challenging times."

As the birth place of the Industrial Revolution, Coltsville is an endowment of American history that must be preserved. As a National Historic Park, Coltsville would tell the story of the Colt family and one of the most iconic precision manufacturing companies in American history. America knows the story of the Colt revolver that won the west which will be told in an exquisite vibrancy through extensive collections presently house in the basement of the Connecticut state library. But perhaps it's the story of Sam and Elizabeth Colt and Coltsville that America does not know that is the most persuasive reason for establishing a National Park at Coltsville. It is the story of the innovative formation of the first US company to export its products overseas and produce the firearms that have been used in every US conflict since the Civil War. It is the story of how Henry Ford and Pratt and Whitney came to Coltsville in order to study the unique manufacturing process and work/life community established by the Colt family. It is also the story of how a woman, Samuel Colt's widow, Elizabeth, managed one of the nation's most profitable and important industries for 40 years, after the death of her husband, at a time when she could not even vote.

I have been working on establishing Coltsville as a National Park diligently for the past 12 years and an extensive amount of due diligence has been done by the Park Service, the State of Connecticut, the City of Hartford, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and this Committee along the way. In 2003, President Bush signed the Coltsville Resource Study Act, which got the ball rolling. Afterwards Coltsville needed to be established as a National Historic Landmark, which was completed by then Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in September of 2007. After the completion of a visitor experience study commissioned by the State of Connecticut in 2008 and the National Park Service Resource Study in 2009 we began pursuing responsible legislation in our challenging fiscal times that mirrored the newly added Patterson, New Jersey, National Historic Park. The Patterson model of creating a pathway for National Park Status with the Park Service and Secretary holding the power to give final approval gives the Park Service the insurance and protections it needs to make Coltsville into a successful member of the Park Service portfolio without overburdening its budget.

What we are working on isn't an enormous park as one might see out West, but it is equally as grand and equally as important. By the National Park Service creating a visitor center in 10,000 square feet in Coltsville's East Armory, modeled after the community Visitor experience study referenced in the Special Resource Study, the history of Colt would be preserved. The initial concept is to have the extensive Colt collections of firearms housed in the basement of the Connecticut State Library and the art collections of Elizabeth Colt reflecting different points in Coltsville's history presently held by the Wadsworth Atheneum on display on a rotating basis. In addition, the main visitor experience attraction would be an interactive elevator ride from the first floor to the dome that sits on top of the East Armory with each floor depicting a different era and historic moment in Coltsville's history. In conjunction with this visitor center Colt Manufacturing has expressed significant interest in bring the manufacturing and engraving of its collection firearms back to the East Armory which would add to the overall visitor experience at no expense to the Park Service. The rest of Coltsville's historic properties: the Church of the Good Shepheard at the home of Sam and Elizabeth Colt will be maintained by the present ownership and interpreted externally and internally through agreements made with the National Park Service.

Every year since I can remember Connecticut has sent more money to Washington to fund the US Government then it has received in return with one of the lowest return rates of all 50 states. In 2010 Connecticut taxpayers sent just under $44 billion to Washington and received $31.1 billion in return, about 70 cents on the dollar. This being said Connecticut has one unit in the Park Service portfolio, a small Historic site called Weir Farm in Southern Connecticut which requires minimal park service support. In Connecticut we don't ask for much from the federal government but the state and the City of Hartford need the expertise, recognition and validation that the Park Service brings in order to appropriately preserve one of the National most historic areas in Coltsville.

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