Sept. 12, 2002 – The plan to open a visitor center at the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve inched forward in Congress on Thursday as the House Resources Committee unanimously approved a bill to allow expansion of the St. Croix property's boundaries.
The move was necessary because a resident along the south boundary wants to donate 15.5 acres of land to the park, and a neighbor on the western side wants to donate part and sell part of an 8.5-acre parcel to the National Park Service. The latter parcel includes a 4,800-square-foot house that local authorities envision using as a visitor center.
"Although Salt River has long been a national and local treasure, the lack of park facilities on the property has prohibited the development of the proper historical tribute that should be present at that site for both residents and visitors alike," Delegate Donna M. Christensen said in a release from Washington, D.C. She sponsored the bill that cleared the House committee on Thursday.
Joel Tutein, national park superintendent on St. Croix, could not be reached for comment. Christensen's aide Brian Modeste said that $1.5 million to pay for the part of the 8.5-acre parcel that's been offered for sale is included in an Interior Department appropriations bill now making its way through the federal government process.
Christensen also announced that the House Resources Committee passed another bill increasing to $500,000 from $200,000 the amount of matching funds that can be waived by federal agencies when making grants to the territories. The bill was sponsored by Christensen and the delegates from Guam and American Samoa.
Both bills will need approval by the full House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as well as President Bush's signature in order to become law.
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