Fast Track Fort Monroe

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s visited Fort Monroe yesterday.  From the Virginian-Pilot:

This historic Army post may have won over a most important ally on Wednesday: Cabinet member Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior. Salazar toured the 570-acre base in Hampton before meeting with about 150 citizens, almost all of whom indicated strong support for making Fort Monroe a national park after the Army departs in September.

Fort Monroe sits on the easternmost end of the “Peninsula.”  From the earliest colonial days to the present, the location of the fort figures prominently in American history.  From the Civil War perspective of course, many story lines unfold as a visitor walks the grounds:  the a foothold retained in Virginia after secession; base for Federal operations against Richmond; place where the “contraband of war” became freedmen; and a prison that held Confederate leaders after the war… just to mention a few.

I would also point out the Fort Monroe also speaks to the “old Army” both pre-Civil War and post-Civil War.  The installation became the testing ground for new weapons, training ground for generations of soldiers, and (well before Fort Leavenworth) where the Army crafted warfighting doctrine.  The fort is in some ways a more fitting location for the National Museum of the US Army (although I would concede that a Fort Belvoir location will attract more visitors).

The Army identified the old installation as excess to its needs in 2005 and programed a closure date of September 2011.  Since the announcement, all sorts of plans have emerged ranging from resorts to state park.  Although the national park option remained on the table, most saw the normal process along that line as too lengthy given the 2011 deadline.   But there is the fast track option:

But with just 2-1/2 months remaining until the Army turns the property over to the state – in compliance with the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s recommendation – a quicker option has become a priority: getting the president to declare the fort a national monument using powers granted to him by the Antiquities Act.

Since this is my soapbox –  there’s an opportunity here that would marry the proclamations to actions.  I think it is time for a Fort Monroe National Historic Site.