CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 5131 is being considered on the House floor under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage on Wednesday, September 22, 2010. This legislation was introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT) on April 22, 2010. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill, as amended, by voice vote on July 22, 2010.
H.R. 5131 would authorize the appropriation of $10 million to establish the Coltsville National Historical Park, in Connecticut. Under the legislation, the park would not be established until the Secretary of Interior determines that a sufficient amount of donated land has been acquired to constitute a “manageable unit” of the National Park Service (NPS). The bill would require that at least 10,000 square feet be obtained for a visitor’s services and parking before the park is established. In addition, the Secretary would be required to enter into a written agreement with the appropriate state, city, or public entities providing that future uses of land within the historic district would be compatible with the designation of the park and the city's preservation ordinance. The Secretary would also be required to enter into an agreement with the Connecticut State Library, Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Colt Trust to obtain Colt-related artifacts for display.
Upon establishment, the Secretary would be required to administer the park. The Secretary would be authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with property owners within the Coltsville Historic District in order to identify, interpret, restore, rehabilitate, and provide technical assistance for the preservation of their properties. If such an agreement is entered into, the Secretary would have the right to access public portions of the property. In addition, no changes or alterations could be made to any properties covered by a cooperative agreement unless the Secretary and the other party to the agreement agreed to the proposed changes or alterations. Under the cooperative agreement, federal funds made available would be required to be matched one-to-one.
The bill would establish the Coltsville National Historical Park Advisory Commission, comprised of 11 members appointed by the Secretary for terms of three years. Members of the advisory commission would serve without a salary, but would be allowed travel expenses, including a per diem. H.R. 5131 would require the Secretary, in consultation with the advisory commission, to complete a management plan for the park. The advisory commission would sunset after ten years of enactment.
According to House Report 111-596, the proposed site of the Coltsville National Historical Park is the former site of the Coltsville Historic District and Coltsville National Historic Landmark in Hartford Connecticut. The site was originally inspired by Samuel Colt (1814-1862), founder of Colt Fire Arms Company and is located near industries and residences associated with Samuel Colt. According to the report, “The Colt factory produced such famous weapons as the Gatling Gun, the Colt .45 ‘Peacemaker,’ the Colt Browning .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, and the M16A4 Rifle.” In 1976, Colstville was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2008, it was designated a National Historic Landmark as a historic place recognized by the Secretary of the Interior. H.R. 5131 would appropriate $10 million to establish the landmark site as a National Historical Park, managed as a unit of the NPS.
The NPS, which would be responsible for maintaining the park, is facing a substantial maintenance deficit and collapsing national park infrastructure. According to CRS, the NPS backlog for maintenance on existing buildings, trails, and other infrastructure was more than $9 billion in FY 2006. The backlog is a result of the NPS failing to do scheduled maintenance and upkeep that was not funded or carried out according to plan. As a result of the backlog, NPS infrastructure is deteriorating at a faster and faster rate. For instance, the estimated maintenance backlog more than doubled, from $4.25 billion in 1999, in just seven years. CRS noted that some estimates put the existing backlog as high as $13.1 billion.
According to CBO, H.R. 5131 would cost $1 million over the FY 2011 through FY 2015 period and $10 million over the FY 2011 through FY 2020 period.