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Assessment team spends time at D-Day Memorial

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By John Barnhart

A team from the National Park Service concluded a site visit at the National D-Day Memorial Wednesday. The results of that visit could determine the future of the Memorial.

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    Terrence Moore, chief of park planning and special studies for the National Park Service's northeast region, which includes Virginia and two other Park Service officials conducted the fact-finding visit. Moore had been tasked by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, at the request of Virginia's congressional delegation, to look at the Memorial to see if it can be taken into the National Park system. The request cites the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows a site to be incorporated by presidential proclamation. Other than a presidential proclamation, Congress can request a special study. Moore said that special studies typically take two years.

    "I think we have been given an awful lot of information," commented Moore, who spent a day and a half here.

    Now that he has this information, he has to answer the question of how to protect this resource and operate it. Moore said that if the National Park Service can't do it, he may be able to outline what other sources there may be for the job. He noted that the Park Service is being asked to look at other sites in similar financial straits. One of these is a park in Pennsylvania that marks George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War to surprise Hessian troops occupying Trenton, N.J. Moore said that the Pennsylvania state agency that administers this site is in financial trouble.

    "We have to measure what we can bring to the site," he said.

    Moore expects to have a report ready within two months.

    "We've taken a bite," he said. "We haven't digested it yet."

    Another issue is the American Antiquities Act. Moore said that this is normally used to preserve sites of scientific interest, or sites where the event commemorated actually occurred. The D-Day Memorial is a commemorative, rather than a historical site.

    "This is a little different because it is a commemorative structure of something that happened somewhere else," he said.

    According to Moore, the only similar structure that has been declared a national monument under the Antiquities Act is the Statue of Liberty.

    "How does the Antiquities Act apply to a modern structure?" Moore asked, describing a question that will have to be answered. He said that the department has very little experience answering this question.

    Dennis Montagna, a Park Service historian, came to get a handle on what it takes to maintain the Memorial.

    "Dennis is our monument man," said Moore.

    Montagna said that the D-Day Memorial is typical of modern monuments in that it is a complex system. Modern monuments aren't just a statue of a man on a horse that you can put up and walk away from.

    "There are a lot of things going on here," he said.

    He's impressed with what he's seen.

    "It's obviously extremely well cared for," he said.

    Joanne Blacoe is an interpretive planner with the Park Service. She visited to look at the Memorial's interpretive programs. She spent time looking at what April Cheek-Messier, the D-Day Memorial Foundation's education director, has done.

    "I was really impressed by the scope of the programs she has," said Blacoe.

    "Her education programs are something to be envied," she said. "She has done a fabulous job here."

    Blacoe liked the Victory Garden and described it as the sort of hands-on activity all museums should do.

    "That's really innovative," she commented.

    She also liked the fact that educational programs are done in an Army tent. It adds touch and smell, the sort of experiences soldiers would have touched and smelled, to the lesson.

    Blacoe also spent time talking to visitors about how they experience the Memorial.

    "Memorials, and places like this, are great places for families," she said.

    She said that places like the D-Day Memorial can be good venues for families to pass on values from one generation to another. The D-Day Memorial is also a good place for the parents of current members of the armed forces to honor their children's service.

    Another program that Blacoe likes is the D-Day Memorial Foundation's efforts to collect oral histories. The Foundation understands that time is short and it's important to collect and assemble these stories to tell the story what happened both here and overseas.

    John Moss, of Lynchburg, happened to be at the Memorial when the Park Service people concluded their visit Wednesday. Moss is a D-Day veteran and has high hopes that the National Park Service will take the Memorial into its system.

    "If the National Park Service does not take this, they are letting a jewel get away," he said.