Washington—Today, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-San Antonio) testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources about the importance of expanding the boundary of the San Antonio Missions National Park. The members of the Bexar County Congressional Delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett introduced the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park Boundary Expansion Act earlier this year. The act would expand the boundary of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park by approximately 137 acres near Missions San José, San Juan, and Espada. This land includes a remnant of the San Juan Dam, the headgate to the San Juan Acequia, and the San José Nature Trail to the San Antonio River.
“The Spanish Missions in San Antonio are a unique treasure for Texans and for all of America,” said Rep. Doggett during his testimony. “The Missions National Historic Park preserves the largest collection of Spanish colonial resources anywhere in America. It is an educational, historical and cultural resource that is each year bringing over a million people to enjoy and learn from it. The park is important to the understanding of Texas and of really the development of the United States and of course is has a very strong positive economic impact for San Antonio and Bexar county. [My bill] would expand the boundary of the park, as shown on the map, by 137 acres. It has the support of all five of us who represent any portion of Bexar County.”
Rep. Doggett’s full testimony, as prepared for delivery, follows below:
I am here today solely on behalf of an existing national park and an important one— the San Antonio Missions National Park. I appreciate this opportunity from you, from Ranking Member Grijalva and my colleagues.
The Spanish Missions in San Antonio are really a unique treasure for Texans and for all of America. The Missions National Historic Park preserves the largest collection of Spanish colonial resources anywhere in America. It is an educational, historical and cultural resource that is each year bringing over a million people to enjoy and learn from it. The park is important to the understanding of Texas and of the development of the United States, and of course it has a very strong positive economic impact for San Antonio and Bexar County.
HR 885 is a bill that would expand the boundary of the park, as shown on the map, by 137 acres. It has the support of all five of us who represent any portion of Bexar County. Most people of course know San Antonio from the Alamo. The Alamo is not on the map that I have here, it is to the north of that area. You can see Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose which is on the map —you can see the green area that represents the small amount, the 137 acres, that would be added to the existing park.
Thanks to the leadership of Judge Nelson Wolff there is a now a trail called Mission Reach so that you can get on downtown at about the Alamo and walk or bike all the way down to Mission Espada as this trail is completed in the very near future. After Mission San Jose, where we will be celebrating with thousands of people Mission Fest in a couple of Sundays, you get to Mission San Juan. That mission has just been restored with private funds — it’s more narrow than our hearing room. It’s a beautiful white stucco building, beautiful with its simplicity and goes back to a time that the Spanish were interacting with the Native Americans in San Antonio. A tremendous amount of private resources have gone into the restoration of Mission San Juan, Mission San Jose and now soon to be completed Mission Espada.
This bill is one that enjoys the support of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. I was just recently with Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Father David Garcia as we re-opened Mission San Juan. There has been other involvement of local officials. The line just north of Mission San Juan is our new veterans memorial bridge with the support of state Rep. Joe Farias. The legislation also enjoys the support of the National Parks Conservation Association, a group called “Los Compadres,” which is a group of citizens throughout the area that helps raise resources to promote the park, and the National Park Service.
This committee is familiar with this legislation because it has considered similar legislation before. And what I’ve tried to do in the bipartisan bill before you today is to include every provision that this committee wanted such as: no federal purchase of land, no condemnation, that type of thing, with one exception. And that is that the bill as filed includes a study to explore the possibility of expanding the park to include some old ranch lands that were associated with the Missions. I understand that there is some objection on the committee to that and let me say our goal is to get this additional 137 acres connected to the park. If the committee feels that the study stands in the way of passing this bipartisan bill please amend it and give us the rest of the bill.
This bill will not become law without the support of Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Cruz over in the United States Senate. I believe it will have that, but as you know they talk longer and take a little longer to consider things over there, and it would be really helpful to us with this broad support to get it over to them as soon as possible.
I served on this committee myself under Chairman Hansen many years ago. I understand the views are as strongly felt as they are this morning on different issues concerning natural resources before the committee. But I believe we have a bill that committee understands; it’s a modest step that will really enhance a national treasure and I hope you can move on it promptly. I stand ready to answer any questions you might have and I think some of my colleagues will be submitting written testimony in support of the bill aware that the committee is very familiar with its provisions.