Rep. McEachin reintroduces Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act

Hidden History

The water is calm at the Deep Creek lock on the Dismal Swamp Canal, part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Chesapeake, Virginia, Feb. 13, 2019. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is slated to replace three of eight chamber valves along the AIWW. (Photo courtesy: U.S. Army, Andria Allmond)

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Rep. Donald McEachin announced he is reintroducing the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act.

McEachin says the bill will “provide local and regional communities with the resources needed to ensure future generations can share in its quintessentially American story.”

The area has a rich history and at one time, was home to Native Americans before it served as a spot for the Underground Railroad and a final destination for many who fled to escape slavery.

“Designating the Great Dismal Swamp as a National Heritage Area will preserve the often untold stories of our nation’s underrepresented, from the Native people who first called the Swamp home, to the enslaved African Americans who endured its hardships as the price for freedom,” McEachin tweeted.

As of Thursday, Feb. 25, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Representatives G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Elaine Luria (VA-02), and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) officially filed the bicameral bill. 

“The Great Dismal Swamp is one of Virginia’s natural treasures, and we must do more to protect it,” Kaine said. 

“I’m proud to introduce this legislation to work towards designating the Dismal Swamp as a Natural Heritage Area and help conserve the land and its wildlife while highlighting the rich cultural history tied to the area,” he continued.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to begin the process of designating the Great Dismal Swamp as a National Heritage Area. The Great Dismal Swamp has a unique geography and place in Virginia and our nation’s history,” said Warner.

“The Great Dismal Swamp once served as a home for Native Americans fleeing the colonial frontier and later as a refuge for escaped slaves. Designating the swamp as a National Heritage Area will further help the community’s efforts to tell these important stories essential to understanding American history,” he continued.

Originally introduced by McEachin on Feb. 11, 2020, as H.B. 5853, the bill will allow the area to get increased national funding without falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

McEachin says the Act will bring historic preservation, conservation, recreation, tourism, and educational projects to the Dismal.

Becoming a National Heritage Area would not affect property rights and, if passed, a feasibility study will be conducted to determine whether the site meets the criteria.

“A natural and cultural beacon of American history, the Great Dismal Swamp has served as a home for people and wildlife for thousands of years and remains one of the most unique landscapes on the East Coast,” said McEachin. 

“Designating the Great Dismal Swamp as a National Heritage Area will move our nation one step closer toward preserving for all generations the often untold stories of our nation’s underrepresented communities, from the Native people who first called the Swamp home, to the deep resolve of the enslaved African Americans who later endured it’s hardships as the price for freedom,” he continued.

“I am pleased to reintroduce the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act to provide local and regional communities with the resources needed to ensure future generations can share in its quintessentially American story.”

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