Members of the state's legislative delegation have revived a bill that would designate the renowned 19th-century factory village in South Hartford as a National Historical Park. A similar bill failed last year in the House.
This year there are reasons to be somewhat more hopeful. Congress usually passes a public lands bill every other year that includes new national parks, and none has passed since 2009. Some ownership and developer issues have been worked through, leaving Chevron TCI as the main stakeholder.
There must be a local, state and federal partnership behind the effort, and there's more focused support at the state and local level than last year. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appears a more energetic supporter than his predecessor; and things have calmed at Hartford city hall. A year ago, Mayor Eddie Perez was otherwise occupied with his corruption trial; his successor, Pedro Segarra, fully supports the Coltsville proposal.
So supporters are cautiously optimistic. They should keep pushing. Samuel and Elizabeth Colt's iconic complex, focal point of precision manufacturing in America's 19th century and the spot where the guns that "won the West" were made, could be a major mixed-use destination in the 21st, a magnet for tourists, scholars, residents, artists, small business owners and others.
The complex is on a rail line and near the river, opening lots of transportation possibilities. A fully renovated (it's now partly restored) Coltsville could extend downtown Hartford to the south, helping make other projects such as Front Street and the restoration of the former Capewell factory work and spurring more development in the area.
Connecticut now has one National Park Service site, Weir Farm in Wilton. This would be the year to double that number.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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