The National Park Service is aware of a CNMI bill that aims to reclaim the American Memorial Park, saying the authority still lies with the CNMI government.
House Bill 20-152, authored by Rep. Donald Barcinas (R-Saipan), passed the CNMI House of Representatives back in March; it is now sitting at the CNMI Senate.
According to a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, the bill’s intention is to authorize Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to ask the Interior secretary to transfer administration of the park to the CNMI government, basically reclaiming the American Memorial Park grounds from the National Park Services, the federal agency that is currently administering the land.
The National Park Service’s superintendent, Barbara Alberti, said the CNMI government leases the park grounds to NPS, so the CNMI is entitled, legally, to take it back and do with it as they please with the land and its infrastructure.
“The National Park Service manages the park…the federal government leases the land from the CNMI specifically for the purpose of a park… It is possible for the CNMI [to reclaim American Memorial Park] and that would be up to legal experts on how to do it…In the covenant, it does discuss until such time as the CNMI would like to lease it and have it returned and then the National Park Service would just turn over all the structures to the CNMI,” she said.
According to Alberti, because the American Memorial Park grounds is not federally owned and is merely under a long-term lease between the CNMI and the NPS, the CNMI has the authority to reclaim the land and break the lease, but the decision lies with the CNMI government and its people.
“The lease to the U.S. government is a long-term lease…for 50 years. We’re not halfway through it but, with that said, it’s a lease and legal experts would advice both the CNMI and the U.S. government on how to go about making changes if that is indeed what people end up wanting to do,” she said.
In a previous Saipan Tribune article, it said the Northern Marianas Descent Corp. has also been discussing the urgency to establish an Indigenous Cultural Center as required under H.B. 20-109. NMDC has been eyeing the American Memorial Park grounds for the center.
Alberti said that NPS was not made aware of those plans and even if NMDC intends to tear down the American Memorial Park to establish the cultural center, or intends to build the center by the park instead, the decision would also lie with the CNMI government.
“What happens in terms of a cultural center being constructed here or the NMDC doing something else, that would be up to the CNMI,” she said
The purpose of the park is to commemorate the services of servicemen and the civilians who sacrificed their lives during World War II.