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National Park Service unveils master plan for Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument

Five years after its creation, the National Park Service (NPS) is ready for the public to weigh in on its proposed management plan and environmental assessment for the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument as the city prepares for an influx of visitors next year – the 60th anniversary of the climactic civil rights events that took place in Birmingham in 1963.

NPS officials have identified the historic A.G. Gaston Motel, which is undergoing a comprehensive restoration, as the “anchor property” for the National Monument located, primarily, just west of the downtown Birmingham business district. Other important sites that are part of the monument include 16th Street Baptist ChurchBethel Baptist Church in the city’s Collegeville neighborhood, Kelly Ingram ParkSt. Paul United Methodist Church, the Masonic Temple Building and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

“General Management Plans set the long-term direction of a national park while defining the conditions necessary to optimally preserve resources, manage operations and provide for visitor use and enjoyment,” said Kristofer Butcher, superintendent of the monument, urging people to provide feedback on the plan.

“Your comments and input are fundamental to our planning and environmental review process,” Butcher said.

According to the NPS news release, the master plan “establishes a management philosophy and framework for future decision-making at the park. The plan incorporates recommendations for use of the A.G. Gaston Motel for NPS operations and visitor services; addresses future development needs; and serves as the implementation plan for the desired conditions and management strategies identified during the plan development process.”

NPS officials noted that the monument has “multiple community partners and sites, many of which remain under private ownership.” The management plan “presents a range of strategies for the NPS to support partner organizations in restoring, maintaining and providing interpretation and visitor services at sites throughout the monument boundary.”

Public comments will be accepted through Nov. 21. The plan can be seen at, and public comments submitted through, the NPS management plan website. Comments can be sent via mail to: Superintendent Kristofer Butcher, Attn: Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument General Management Plan, National Park Service, 1914 Fourth Ave. N., Suite 440, Birmingham, AL 35203.

Created in the final days of the administration of President Barack Obama, the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument aims to “collaborate with local organizations in commemorating the nonviolent struggle to dismantle racial segregation and discrimination in Birmingham during the 1950s and 1960s,” NPS officials said.

In 1963, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a local activist who had been fighting for racial justice in Birmingham for years, persuaded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to co-lead a campaign to break down segregation in the city, taking on the staunch segregationist and Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor. The campaign, dubbed “Project C” led to a violent reaction by Connor and the police department, including mass arrests of nonviolent children.

According to the NPS description of the events of 1963, “images of snarling police dogs unleashed against nonviolent protesters and of children being sprayed with high-pressure hoses appeared in print and television news around the world. The episode sickened many, including President John F. Kennedy, and elevated civil rights from a Southern issue to a pressing national issue. These efforts paved the way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a huge victory towards leading the nation to better living up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.”

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