U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have submitted a bill to add 40 “coastal acres” of land to the National Park Service to create an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving at the historic fort.
“With its rich history, Fort Monroe is unlike any other national monument. It’s uniquely positioned to tell some of our nation’s most significant stories on a compact and highly accessible site in the middle of an urban area,” the Democratic senators said in a joint statement. “This legislation will finally unify Fort Monroe, from Old Point Comfort north to the end of the property, thus protecting the land’s iconic history and its recreational value on the Chesapeake Bay.”
Another aspect of the bill requires the Secretary of the Interior to work with Virginia when it comes to managing buildings on the fort deemed of non-historic significance, according to the news release.
During the Civil War, the union fort was known as “Freedom’s Fortress,” a beacon of hope for escaped slaves to reach union lines. However, in recent years the Fort Monroe Authority, a “political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” had been in charge of the repurposing the fort and has since established a community center and offers historic homes for rent to the public.
The strip of land discussed in the Fort Monroe National Monument Land Acquisition Act, which starts on Gulick Road and runs parallel to the Battery DeRussy toward Paradise Ocean Club, is owned by the state and is run by the Fort Monroe Authority — for now.
If the bill passes, the National Park Services will assume control of the 40-acre area which borders the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Fort Monroe Authority is excited to see this legislative initiative to expand the National Park Service lands at Fort Monroe,” said Glenn Oder, executive director at the Fort Monroe Authority. “The additional land will put all of the beaches at Fort Monroe under one property owner and continue the seamless visitor experience that has been created here at Fort Monroe.”