Legislative History

The route to National Historic Trail designation was a long one, lasting from 2000 to 2009, and spearheaded by the W3R-US. The following timeline outlines the legislative process, which culminated in the designation of the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail on 30 March 2009 by President Barack Obama.


The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Heritage Act of 2000

The National Heritage Act of 2000 directed the National Park Service (NPS), through the Secretary of the Interior, to submit to Congress a study of the route followed by the American and French armies in 1781, and 1782, under Generals George Washington, and the comte de Rochambeau as they travelled to, and returned from, the siege and victory at Yorktown. It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as House Resolution H.R. 4794 by Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT). It was co-sponsored by 42 Congressional delegates. In the United States Senate Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the almost identical Senate Resolution S. 3209 on 17 October 2000. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on 9 November 2000 as PL 106-473.

W3R Designation as a Millenium Trail

In October of 2000 the White House Millennium Council designated the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route a Community Millennium Trail.


NPS Progress on the Requested W3R Study: Public Hearings in Several States

The NPS assembled a research team, and developed a slide show explaining the goals, and purposes of the study toward developing the W3R, which was shown at public hearings in Connecticut, New Jersey and Virginia.


NPS Progress on the W3R Study: Statement of Historic and Cultural Significance

The research team continued its work and drafted a report for study by the NPS Advisory Board. In early 2003, a 55-page “Statement of Significance” was published. At their 8 April 2003 meeting, the Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board unanimously recommended that a complete proposal on the W3R be developed and presented to Congress for final consideration and a vote on designation as a National Historical Trail.


Funding Celebrations of the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution

The 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Commemoration Act provided the National Park Service with funds to support commemorative efforts related to the American Revolution until 2009. This included commemorative efforts related to the W3R. In 2003, Rep. Morris D. Hinchey (D-NY) introduced House Resolution H.R. 2237. The Senate Companion Resolution S. 1108 was introduced by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). The Interior Appropriations Bill passed by Congress in 2005 provided $200,000 for H.R. 2237.


NPS Progress on the W3R Study: Survey of Public Opinion on W3R Options

In late 2004, the National Park Service requested public participation in a survey of several options for managing the proposed trail. At a hearing by the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, on H.R. 2237, entitled “The 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Commemoration Act”, Dr. James M. Johnson, chair of W3R-NY, explained the reasons why the nation should commemorate the people and events of the American Revolution, including the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. Click here to see his testimony. On 20 October 2004, the W3R-US reported activities at a national level in a report to the Pentagon, and to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Click here to see that report.


NPS Progress on the W3R Study

On 20 April 2005, the NPS prepared the following statement of support:

“The proposed Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route will be established by Congress as a national historic trail within the national trails system. Between Boston and Yorktown, the trail will serve interpretive, educational, commemorative and retracement purposes through recreational, driving and water-based routes.

“The NPS may recommend a shared management scheme with a new nonprofit trail organization, as well as state and local agencies and other interest groups. A trail management plan may be developed by NPS. This plan would include guidance and standards on issues such as signage; certification of sites; interpretive and educational content for exhibits and promotional materials; and research and preservation. A trail advisory board, formed of an appointed group of representatives, would be established to advise the NPS on trail implementation issues.

“The newly established nonprofit trail organization — which could incorporate constituencies currently constituting the W3R-USA together with other interested groups and agencies — would assist with some aspects of plan implementation, as well as undertaking other tasks such as advocacy, commemoration and fundraising.

“Limited federal financial assistance would be provided. It would be dedicated to trail management and administration and to supporting groups engaged in interpreting and preserving the trail and its resources. The federal government would not acquire land or resources associated with the trail.

“Over time, the historic route would be marked as continuous segments on the ground or at water access points; in a few places, physical trail segments could be enhanced. Where feasible, modern road segments that follow the known routes would be marked for travel. In areas where development and related impacts have diminished or destroyed access to or along the historic routes, interpretive waysides or other informational means could be applied, as appropriate. Modern roads could be used as deviations from the original routes if deemed necessary to protect fragile historic resources, provide continuity or protect public safety.”


NPS Recommends Designating the W3R as an NHT

The National Park Service Final Review Document recommends designating the route taken by the allied armies to Yorktown a National Historic Trail. All documents are available here: parkplanning.nps.gov/document

Congressional Action on Designating W3R a National Trail

Two bills first introduced in 2006, then tabled, were reintroduced in 2007. On 26 February 2007, Senator Lieberman (D-CT) introduced Senate Resolution S. 686 — “to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the Washington-Rochambeau Route as a National Historic Trail”. In March, Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) introduced H.R.1286, identical with S. 686. Next the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks of the U.S. Senate Committee for Energy and Resource held a Legislative Hearing on S.686. In an open business session in May, the Senate committee by a unanimous voice vote of a quorum present, recommended that the Senate pass S.686. In October 2007, S.686 was combined with other related bills into an omnibus bill.

The “Natural Resource Projects and Programs Authorization Act of 2007” includes the W3R trail designation under TITLE II–NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, Subtitle C–National Trails, as SEC. 222. WASHINGTON-ROCHAMBEAU REVOLUTIONARY ROUTE NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL. In October 2007, the bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar but postponed indefinitely in May 2008.

In October 2007, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands (of the House Committee on Natural Resources), held a Legislative Hearing on eleven bills, including H.R.1286. Col. James M. Johnson, Ph.D. (ret.), retired professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Vice Chair for Regional Coordination of the W3R-US, provided testimony on H.R.1286. Click here to read Kim Burdick’s testimony.


House And Senate Committees Endorse Designation
House Adopts H.R.1286; Senate Bill Expires

In June 2008, sections from the postponed first omnibus bill are incorporated in Omnibus Bill, S.3213, Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008, sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) on behalf of the U.S. Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources. S. 3213 includes the W3R trail designation in SEC. 514, entitled “Washington – Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail”.

In June 2008, H.R.1286 is approved by the House Natural Resources Committee, and reported to the Floor for debate and a vote. The House of Representatives debated, amended, and passed H.R.1286.

Several major national crises intervened in 2008 (credit market meltdown; home, auto, sales and construction collapse; and massive securities fraud). Exploration of, and action on, these crises took precedence over action on public land issues, so S.3213 was never brought before the full Senate for debate and vote.

Thus, although the House had passed H.R.1286 in July 2008, the designation of the W3R as a NHT was not signed into law. Since the review and approval process starts afresh in each new Congress, companion bills had to be re-introduced in both Houses of Congress in 2009.


Legislation Advances Again, Bills Re-Introduced In the Senate and House

In January 2009, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced Senate Resolution S.22, Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, on behalf of the U.S. Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources. The 1,300-page bill included 160 items, most of which had been approved by the Senate committee over six months earlier. It included protection of more than two million acres of wilderness in nine states, and established three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers, and four new national trails.

Also in January, Rep Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) introduced H.R.328, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Designation Act. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. By late January the bill had thirteen cosponsors, Representatives Castle [DE], Courtney [CT], Engel [NY], Fattah [PA], Holt [NJ], Kennedy [RI], Lowey [NY], Moran [VA], Murphy [CT], Murphy [PA], Oberstar [MN], Schwartz [PA], and Serrano [NY]. In February 2009, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources to be reviewed by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

The United States Senate debated the bill in January 2009. After an hour of debate the U.S. Senate voted by 66 to 12 to invoke cloture, and proceed to a vote on S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The U.S. Senate voted 73 to 21 to adopt S. 22. Section 5204 of S.22 constitutes the companion legislation to H.R.328.

To become law both the House and Senate must pass the same bill. This sometimes happens after different bills are passed and a conference committee agrees on a single wording that is then (usually) passed by both houses, and sent to the President for signing into law. The fastest way to proceed is for the House to pass a bill with the SAME language as the bill that the Senate has already passed so that this bill can be sent directly to the President for signing into law. Thus, when the Omnibus bill was passed by the Senate, House attention focused on passing that rather than H.R.328, which concerned only one of the trails in the omnibus bill.

S.22 was received in the House of Representatives, and held at desk, meaning that it would be available for consideration by the full chamber at any time rather than being referred to committee, because the House leadership planned to consider the bill shortly. In March 2009, S.22 failed passage, i.e. it was not agreed to in the House of Representatives. A motion to suspend the rules, and to pass the-bill-as-amended, which required a 2/3 affirmative vote, failed by a vote of 282 to 144. (Roll no. 117) It would have passed if two “No” votes had switched to “Aye”.

Sen. Bingaman now proposed a substantial amendment to H.R.146, which had been passed by the House of Representatives on 3 March. The original bill had dealt with preserving Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefields. Bingaman’s amendment added S.22 to the original H.R.146 provisions. Several further amendments were added, and the title was changed to: An act to designate certain land as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes. Of special interest to the W3R-USA is TITLE V–RIVERS AND TRAILS, Subtitle C–Additions to the National Trails System, Section 5204 — Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. On 19 March 2009, H.R.146.EAS was passed by the Senate, and returned to the House for consideration of the extended and amended bill. On 25 March, H.R.146.EAS was passed by the House by a roll call vote of 285-140 after an hour of floor debate. The bill thus became H.R.146-ENR (enrolled).

On Monday, 30 March 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law Public Law 111-11, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Sec. 5204 designating the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail. For the final legislation click here.