Emancipation National Historic Trail Feasibility Study

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The National Park Service is pleased to announce the commencement of the Emancipation National Historic Trail (NHT) Feasibility Study to evaluate its eligibility and suitability for inclusion as a national historic trail.

To add your name to the Study Mailing list click on "Links" on the left hand side menu and click on "Emancipation Study- Sign-up Form".

The proposed Emancipation NHT extends approximately 51 miles from the Osterman Building and Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, along Texas State Highway 3 and Interstate Highway 45 North, to Freedmen's Town, then to Independence Heights and Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas, following the migration route taken by newly freed slaves and other persons of African descent from the major 19th century seaport town of Galveston to the burgeoning community of Freedmen's Town, located in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas.

The Emancipation NHT Feasibility Study was directed and approved by Congress on Jan 27, 2020 through an amendment to the National Trails System Act (P.L. 116-111).

The purpose of the Emancipation NHT Feasibility Study is to evaluate the national historical significance of the route, as well as the feasibility, suitability, and desirability of designating the route as a national historic trail. Findings of the trail study will be shared with Congress who has the sole authority to enact legislation to designate new national historic trails.

WHAT IS A NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL?
National historic trails are designated by Congress and recognize past routes of travel that are significant in the history of the United States. These historic routes are designated so that the public can enjoy, visit, connect with, and understand them. Examples of other national historic trails include Lewis and Clark, Selma to Montgomery, and Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo).

Created by the National Trails System Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-543), national historic trail designations are continuous from end to end, often cross state boundaries, and a variety of types of land ownership.

However, national historic trails are not hiking trails, open to public use from end to end. Rather, discrete locations on public lands and participating private property along the alignment are open to visitation. Designation of a national historic trail does not establish public right-of way or change land ownership or authority over private property. Visit www.nps.gov/subjects/nationaltrailssystem to learn more.

WHAT IS A NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY?
Prior to the designation of a national historic trail Congress typically legislates that a national historic trail study be completed. National historic trail studies provide findings to Congress on the national historical significance of potential routes and speak to the feasibility, suitability, and desirability of designating a route as a national historic trail. It is important to note that national historic trail studies are not decision-making documents, nor do they provide management-level decisions for the trail.
National historic trail feasibility studies are undertaken following specific criteria that are provided in the National Trails System Act of 1968, as amended. The National System Act specifies ten study requirements and three eligibility criteria for national historic trail designations.
Based on experience, trail studies typically take approximately two and half years to complete. After a trail study is completed it is transmitted to Congress. Congress has the sole authority to enact legislation to designate new national historic trails. A few additional steps are required should Congress designate a new national historic trail. One requirement is the development of a comprehensive plan for the management and use of the trail.

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT
An important aspect of the trail study process is public involvement. Normally, a series of public meetings would be held across the length of the proposed route to get gather information from the public. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the study team has concluded that it is not feasible or safe to schedule in-person public meetings at this time. Plans for virtual public meetings and involvement opportunities are presently being developed. Specific opportunities for engagement and dates of virtual public meetings will be announced on this page.

Please check back for updates as we develop a plan for engagement and public input during COVID-19.

Contact Information
Lillis A. Urban
Project Manager for the Emancipation National Historic Trail Feasibility Study
Chief of Planning
National Trails Office
National Park Service
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM, 87505
505-819-1339
lillis_urban@nps.gov