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Let's make national park status happen

Posted: March 15, 2012 4:01 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2012 5:00 a.m.

I recently attended the National League of Cities conference. This annual event, attended by representatives from thousands of cities, provides local leaders with resources, contacts and continuing education. The League is focused on helping cities build stronger communities. Advocacy, job creation, economic growth, effective policy making, and feasible collaboration are only a few of the topics we explored for continuing and creating sustainable, vibrant communities.

Both Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis highlighted the need to build healthy environments -- healthy environments in which both commercial and residential growth are appropriately planned. In addition to hearing from senior leaders of our national government, seminars, problem-solving and teambuilding, the League offers incredible opportunities for networking and the chance to speak with federal level representatives.

I took full advantage of the networking opportunities to advocate for one of Camden's significant attractions.  Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site and the Camden battle sites -- more than 100 acres of ground that served as a British supply post during the Revolution War and the battle ground where Americans shed blood for our freedom -- must be designated as a national park. That is the very message that I delivered to the Department of the Interior where the National Park Service (NPS) resides.

In one very important meeting with Alma Ripps, deputy chief of staff for the NPS, Council member Alfred Mae Drakeford and I listened to the perspective of the NPS staff on the possibility of Historic Camden and the Battle of Camden Battlefield becoming a national park.

We also took the opportunity to help those sitting 451 miles away from Camden to understand the importance of these sites from the hometown perspective. We did this so the NPS staff could begin to understand what the sites mean to those of us who live with this important history in our backyards.

As you may know, the NPS is conducting a feasibility study to determine if the two locations, either singularly or together, meet the criteria for becoming a national park. If the NPS study determines that requisite criteria are met, the NPS will make a recommendation to Congress for national park status. It is then up to Congress to make the formal designation.

At the completion of the study there will be a public comment period. But right now is the time for the NPS to understand the support of our community and that of historic conservation advocates. As we await the NPS study results later this year, there is work to be done. We must let our congressional representatives know that we fully support this effort. Likewise, it is important for the NPS to know our congressional delegation is behind this effort.

Another venue to get these two sites into the National Park System is to have the President, under the Antiques Act, declare the sites as National Park Monuments. This process is a bit different; however, via either method, congressional support is paramount. I and others began work on this more than a year ago as a fall-back position.

While we are in the throes of a political season, now is the time to make sure your representation supports this status. While I believe the time with the Department of the Interior representatives was extremely productive, it is time for you to write to those who have the authority to make this happen. It is critical for them to understand the value of these sites. In my mind, this issue is above politics; it is about doing the right thing to conserve two monumentally important sites to Camden, Kershaw County, South Carolina, and the United States. Please join me in telling the story of our history to those who need to know:

• The Honorable Jim DeMint, 167 Russell Senate Office Building, United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

• The Honorable Lindsey Graham, 290 Russell Senate Office Building, United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

• The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, U.S. House of Representatives, 1004 Longworth HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515

• Southeast Region National Park Service 100 Alabama Street, SE Atlanta, GA 30303

In other meetings, I expressed the appreciation of Camden residents for the $3.5 million in grant funding which has allowed us to improve our local infrastructure and for the funding to have a truck by-pass around our downtown. These meetings also provided a platform for us to express our hopeful anticipation for grant funding to continue the exceptional work which has begun in Camden.

 Having been re-energized and equipped with additional tools, I am glad to be home. I am ready to employ the resources gained and information learned to face the everyday challenges of our city. Camden is a great place to work, to live and to play … let's keep it that way and let's make it even better for our future.

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