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The National Defense Authorization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in October, directed the National Park Service to do a study to determine whether the National D-Day Memorial qualifies for inclusion in the national park system.
As part of that two-year process, a team from the National Park Service (NPS) held a public meeting at Bedford Elementary School last week. A crowd consisting mostly of veterans, including Bob Slaughter, filled the school’s cafeteria. Slaughter, who came ashore in the first wave on D-Day as a 19-year-old sergeant in charge of a heavy machine gun crew, spearheaded the effort to get the D-Day Memorial established.
The NPS delegation was headed by Terrence Moore, chief of planning for the Park Service’s northeastern region, which includes this area. Moore said the northeastern region contains 87 National Park Service units. According to Moore, there are four basic criteria that the D-Day Memorial must meet to become part of the national park system.
To begin with, the Memorial must have national significance. Moore said that it may meet this criteria because federal legislation adopted in 1997 designates it as a national memorial.
The next criteria is suitability. Moore said that they will compare it with other sites to make sure it doesn’t duplicate efforts elsewhere.
Then, it must be determined if taking the D-Day Memorial into the park system is feasible. They are going to look at how much it will cost to operate it. They will also look at what’s near the Memorial and whether the Memorial’s grounds are large enough to keep these neighboring land uses from spoiling it for visitors.
Finally, they will look at management options for the D-Day Memorial. Moore said that the study may provide alternatives to including the Memorial in the park system. One possibility may be asking Congress to make a change in the original 1997 legislation designating the D-Day Memorial as a national memorial. That legislation has language that states that no federal funds are to be used for it.
“Most of this year we’ll be researching and writing,” Moore said.
A draft of their report will be completed by the end of this year and released in the spring of 2012. After a public comment period, the final report will be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior, who then makes a recommendation to Congress.
Congress makes the ultimate decision and may override the Park Service’s recommendation. Moore said that that happened once in the past decade in his region. Moore said that his office had recommended against taking in a site in New Jersey, but Congress voted in favor of it anyway.
Several people attending the meeting spoke in favor of including the D-Day Memorial in the national park system.
“The Memorial, built at one-seventh of the cost of the World War II Memorial, has a richness of design, sculpture, educational plaques and volunteer support that exceeds other military and cultural memorials,” said Jim Morrison.
Morrison said that the Memorial is located in a beautiful part of the country in close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appomattox Historical Park and the Booker T. Washington National Monument. He said that the sculpture and information on the plaques is accurate and the result of research, including six years of research by D-Day Memorial Foundation staff to compile the 4,413 names of Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day.
Morrison believes the Memorial would benefit from being part of the Park system.
“Direct management by the Park Service, one of the nation’s most esteemed institutions, would bring long-term professional expertise and management and financial stability,” Morrison said. “The Park Service would also bring greater national attention to the Memorial, likely resulting in greater numbers of visitors.” There is, however, a downside to being included in the National Park System. Moore said that all facilities in the national park system must have an area set aside for people to express their First Amendment rights. As a result, there have been Nazi and Ku Klux Klan rallies at National Park Service sites.
There is also an alternative to the D-Day Memorial becoming part of the national park system. Moore said that the National Park Service gives grants to private organizations and there are many programs at the Memorial that would qualify for grants. Currently, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation can’t ask for these, but that would change if the original legislation that established the D-Day Memorial as a national memorial were changed.
A Web site, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/dday, has been set up so that people can check on the progress of this study. Moore said that they are seeking public comment, and the Web site has a section for that purpose.