President Obama Creates First National Monument In Delaware

March 25, 2013

Woodlawn property, future National Park

Woodlawn property. Photo by Jim Graham.

Antiquities Act Proclamation designates Conservation Fund property part of First State National Monument.

New Castle County, Del. — The Conservation Fund is pleased to assist President Obama and the National Park Service in the establishment of the first national monument in Delaware: First State National Monument. The President signed a proclamation today to designate the historic 1,100-acre Woodlawn property in the Brandywine River Valley as part of the new monument under the powers granted to him by the Antiquities Act.  Prior to today’s announcement, The Conservation Fund owned the Woodlawn property, which it donated to the Park Service thanks to an extraordinary donation from Mt. Cuba Center to make this designation possible.

“Delaware’s important contributions to the founding of the United States, including its role as the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, make it a significant addition to the National Park System,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.  ”We are honored to be entrusted with the responsibility to help preserve these places and share their history to inspire future generations, and we are grateful for the support of The Conservation Fund, Mt. Cuba Center, the Woodlawn Trustees and the State of Delaware in making this new national monument a reality.”

Although Delaware’s state slogan is “the first state,” it remained, until today, the last state in the country with neither a national monument nor national park. President Obama’s executive designation honors the Woodlawn property along with the New Castle Courthouse complex and the Dover Green as a National Park Service unit, equivalent to such icons as the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty.

Thanks to an unprecedented private contribution in excess of $20 million by Mt. Cuba Center, The Conservation Fund was able to preserve the Woodlawn property and champion its inclusion in the National Park System as a national monument or park. For more than a century, the land has been managed as a wildlife preserve and open space for public recreation. With Mt. Cuba’s foresight and commitment of resources, the Fund was able to donate the property to the National Park Service, making its designation as a national monument possible.

Trees on the Woodlawn Property

Forest at Woodlawn Property. Photo by Whitney Flanagan/The Conservation Fund.

Ann C. Rose, President of Mt. Cuba Center, stated: “This is an exceptionally rare opportunity to not only preserve open space but to preserve history as well.  Delaware is clearly deserving of national recognition and this land along the Brandywine provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate our past while preserving land for generations to come. We are very pleased to be part of this collaborative effort, yet even more pleased to be able to implement Mt. Cuba’s mission of conserving ecologically sensitive areas and preserving open space.”

“History was made today in the place where it all began,” said Blaine Phillips senior vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional director for The Conservation Fund. “President Obama’s designation of the Woodlawn property as part of the First State National Monument is a celebration of Delaware’s rich contributions to American history and its inherent natural beauty.  It’s only fitting that here in our nation’s first state, the National Park system is made whole, representing every state in the country. The Conservation Fund is privileged to facilitate the protection of the Woodlawn property for the National Park Service and extremely grateful to Mt. Cuba Center for making it all possible.”

Originally acquired by William Penn from the Duke of York in 1682, the 1,100-acre Woodlawn property lies on the banks of the Brandywine River, primarily in Delaware and extending north into Pennsylvania. Nearby, in 1777, General George Washington’s troops defended against British forces in the largest battle of the American Revolution. Since then, the Brandywine Valley’s natural beauty has inspired generations of artists, including acclaimed painter Andrew Wyeth. Today, however, rapid development is squeezing the pristine open spaces that remain.

In addition to President Obama, the national monument designation draws upon the support of many public officials, who have joined to recognize the Woodlawn property’s importance to the nation. They include Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis; U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Bob Casey (D-PA); U.S. Representatives John Carney, Jr. (D-DE-1) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA-7); and Delaware Governor Jack Markell. 

Kayaking on the Brandywine River

Kayaking on the Brandywine River. Photo by Whitney Flanagan/The Conservation Fund.

“This is not the finish line, but it’s a very good step toward the end goal, which is a National Park for Delaware,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Before today, Delaware was the only state in our great nation not in the national park system, which through its parks and monuments brings at least $1 million, if not much more, in tourism and economic development to each state with a park or monument every year. Today, not only does the national park system gain an important story about the crucial role the First State played in the founding of our country—a story that will now be preserved for generations to come—but our state can now welcome the many economic opportunities that surround a new national monument and can help boost local businesses and create jobs.” 

“I want to thank President Obama for recognizing the importance of preserving these historic sites,” added Carper. “On behalf of the thousands of Delawareans that have supported this project over the years, I want to especially thank Ken Salazar, the Secretary of Interior, and Jon Jarvis, the National Park Service Director, for their unflappable support and work on this project.  Without the efforts of Secretary Salazar, Director Jarvis and their hardworking staffs, we would not be celebrating today.  Every year, millions of Americans and countless others from across the world plan their vacations around America’s national parks and monuments. After today, these visitors will find a new and exciting monument to visit in the First State and our neighbor, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

“The First State national monument would not be possible without the steadfast support of Senator Carper, who, along with the entire Delaware delegation, and Vice President Joe Biden, has spent years championing this park site’s development,” said Tom Kiernan, President, National Parks Conservation Association. Today, President Obama fulfilled a vision set more than a century ago by William Poole Bancroft, who purchased the land just north of downtown Wilmington and less than an hour from Philadelphia, with the foresight of preserving an urban oasis in the Brandywine Creek corridor. The monument also commemorates the legacy and perseverance of early Dutch, Swedish, and English settlement in Delaware, a vital but little known aspect of our First State’s rich history.”

The Antiquities Act provides presidents with executive authority to protect irreplaceable lands and waters by designating them as national monuments. Since 1906, 16 presidents (eight Democrats, eight Republicans) have used the Antiquities Act to protect national icons like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty. Some of America’s favorite national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park, were first named national monuments. 


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.


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