On April 5, Fort Monroe National Monument Superintendent Kirsten Talken-Spaulding announced the start of the park’s inaugural planning effort with two April 30th open house sessions and a web page that explains the process and solicits public comment.
The superintendent said, “This spring, a National Park Service planning team is beginning work on the first planning effort for the national monument-the development of a Foundation Document.”
In the process, Superintendent Talken-Spaulding said, “Your voice is important.”
“This planning phase will help further identify what is most important about the monument,” she added.
The Foundation Document describes “the monument's core mission and most important resources, focuses efforts on protecting its most important resources and values,” and “serves as the underlying guidance for all management and planning decisions.” She also said, “It is not a decision-making document and does not include management actions or strategies.”
The two open house sessions, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., on the 30th, at The Chamberlin on Fenwick Road on Fort Monroe, permit the public to “play a role in charting the park's future by sharing your thoughts.”
Superintendent Talken-Spaulding urged those who could not attend to weigh-in online or by mail (address below). She requested that the public comment on four key questions—
1) What is most important about Fort Monroe National Monument?
2) What are the greatest threats to Fort Monroe National Monument?
3) How have you used Fort Monroe in the past? What uses would you like to see at Fort Monroe?
4) What should the American people know about Fort Monroe? What are its most important stories?
Superintendent Talken-Spaulding’s announcement succinctly overviewed some of the most important historical background.
“This area was occupied by American Indians for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans," she said. "It was named ‘Pointe Comfort’ by Captain John Smith in 1607 when the first English colonists came to America. The first enslaved Africans in England's colonies in America were brought to this peninsula on a ship flying the Dutch flag in 1619, beginning a long ignoble period of slavery in the colonies and, later, this nation. Two hundred and forty-two years later, Fort Monroe became a place of refuge for those later generations escaping enslavement. It has served as a bastion of the nation's defense over multiple centuries and is home to diverse natural resources, including ancient trees and beaches, and a variety of recreational opportunities. It is a vital part of the Chesapeake's natural and cultural landscape.”
To comment, visit the park’s planning web page or send answers to the above questions to—National Park Service, Denver Service Center, Fort Monroe NM Planning Team, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, P.O.Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287
The open house events will be held on the fort at The Chamberlin, a massive historic hotel. The original hotel on the site, the Hygeia, was built in 1820. Among the noteworthy clientele was Edgar Allan Poe, who served at the fort while in the army during the mid 1820s. In 1849, a month before he died, the poet returned to read “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” on the hotel’s porch. The Hygeia burned in 1920, and the landmark of The Chamberlin was built. The structure is visible on upper left in the photo above.