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Coltsville Study A Road Map To National Park Status

MARK SPENCER

December 02, 2009

HARTFORD - Although a newly released federal study concludes that the Coltsville Historic District does not qualify now to become a national park, supporters said Tuesday it provides a road map to reach the goal.

The special resource study by the National Park Service found that the 260-acre site, which was named a National Landmark last year, met only two of the four congressionally mandated criteria to become a part of the national park system: national significance, suitability, feasibility and management options.

As a landmark, Coltsville meets the national significance criterion, said Terrence Moore, chief of planning and compliance for the northeast region of the park service. And its role in pioneering precision manufacturing as part of Samuel Colts' firearms empire makes it suitable for inclusion, Moore said.

But it did not meet the other two criteria, in large part because various owners of the site have not provided specifics on which parts could become a national park. The complex has 10 historic industrial buildings, a former housing complex for Colt workers, the Church of the Good Shepherd, a park and Colt's home, Armsmear.

"We don't have any sense of what portion of it would be available for administration and use by the public," Moore said.

According to the 84-page study, released Monday, the feasibility and management issues could be addressed in the future, particularly if firm commitments are forthcoming from Urban Smart Growth, the California-based developer that recently took over the site.

David Panagore, Hartford's chief operating officer, said that the developer is untangling a complicated financial picture made more difficult by the recession, but that there is progress.

"We're not writing any obituaries today," Panagore said.

Coltsville supporters envision exhibits that would depict the heyday of Colt and could draw up to 200,000 visitors a year to the city. A national park also could be a catalyst for residential and commercial development in surrounding neighborhoods.

The $250,000 study was authorized in 2004. Although similar studies are usually completed within three years, Moore said it was delayed in hopes of obtaining more definitive plans.

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, will meet soon with the Coltsville Ad Hoc Committee and other concerned parties to discuss the report, which he said provided a path to move forward.

"The National Park Service has shown their commitment to the Coltsville Historic District in naming it as a National Historic Landmark and I will continue working to ensure Coltsville and the legacy of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt are appropriately honored," Larson said in a statement.

The park service will hold a public meeting to discuss the study on Dec. 14, at 5:30 p.m., in Gray Hall at the South Congregational Church, 277 Main St.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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