Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he supports the position of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the McDonald’s controversy. Faleomavaega has informed Governor Togiola of his concerns in a letter dated April 11, 2006 which was copied to the Lieutenant Governor, the President and Senators, the Speaker and Representatives, Ms. Lydia Faleafine-Nomura of OIA, and Mr. Charles Tautolo, President & CEO of McDonald’s American Samoa.
“Based on a review of relevant information including documents, maps, and other material which I requested from NPS, I am convinced their position in this matter is correct,” Faleomavaega said. “It appears from the documentation that there is a signed agreement between ASG and the NPS that places Utulei Beach Park within the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program (LWCF) as park land dedicated to public outdoor recreational use in perpetuity. Also included with the agreement is a map clearly showing that the entirety of the Utulei Beach Park is included in the agreement, from the Rainmaker Hotel to Scanlan’s Gas Station.”
“The agreement between ASG and NPS has been in place since 1995. Since signing the agreement, ASG has accepted over $4 million in grant funds from the National Park Service to conserve land for our people’s outdoor recreational use and I have expressed my concerns to the Governor over the possible consequences for American Samoa if he chooses to ignore the Park Service agreement. Violating the terms of this agreement jeopardizes not just funding for this particular grant project but for all federal grants funding in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“If our local government makes a promise to the federal government and accepts grant funding, then decides the terms of the grant are inconvenient and no longer apply, it sends the message that American Samoa does not respect the federal grant process and therefore should not be trusted with any federal money. Given the tremendous amount of federal grant funding to the Territory, I do not believe having a McDonald’s franchise on the beach is worth the risk of jeopardizing our federal funds.”
“At this point, the National Park Service is still willing to work with ASG to arrive at a solution to this problem and to re-institute the funding for conservation and beautification efforts in the park area. I support the goal of the Park Service to ensure that Utulei Beach Park is preserved as an open space for all our people to enjoy and I remain hopeful that the Governor will not jeopardize our relationship with the federal government over something this trivial.”
“Utulei Beach Park is a unique and precious resource for our people. Through the concerted efforts of our local government and the National Park Service, we have managed to preserve our only public beach area as an outdoor recreational area for all to enjoy. Given that McDonald’s will almost undoubtedly be successful at any number of alternate locations, I see no valid reason to insist on leasing a part of this beautiful park for a commercial venture,” the Congressman concluded.