Two South Carolina historic sites became national parks on Tuesday after President Trump signed a Congressional lands bill into law.
The new law establishes Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park in the Charleston area and the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park in Beaufort. Both had been designated as national monuments and were already managed by the National Park Service.
The U.S. Senate overwhelming passed the bill — which includes other National Park Service designations, protects more than a million acres of wilderness and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund — on Feb. 12. The bill then passed the U.S. House of Representatives handily late last month before it went to the president.
Dawn Davis, a spokesperson for the park service, said the primary difference the name change will bring to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie is the potential to reach more visitors.
"It can change how the public perceives the park and give it better recognition," she said.
The new name can be especially helpful for Fort Moultrie, she said. Though the Sullivan's Island fort was part of Fort Sumter National Monument, it wasn't included in the overarching name.
Fort Moultrie is one of the oldest forts on the U.S. coast, and Fort Sumter, which is located on a small island in Charleston Harbor, was where the first shots of the Civil War rang out in 1861.
The recognition that comes with being known as a national park could also help officials when they're trying to secure funding for projects, said Paula Ogden-Muse, the head interpreter for Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie.
For example, they hope to restore the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, which is included in the national park as part of the historic Sullivan’s Island Life Saving Station.
In Beaufort, the new law will also establish a network of historic sites. The national park in Beaufort will serve as a hub for a Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, which would connect other sites around the country that are important to the period of U.S. history following the Civil War.
"It's going to allow us to link all these stories related to Reconstruction," Davis said. "This story is way bigger than one park."
The new legislation makes it easier for the park to possibly expand, too, Davis said, though it doesn't automatically change its boundaries.
At the statewide Governor's Conference on Tourism and Travel hosted last month in Columbia, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC, praised the park developments in Beaufort. He described its potential for tourism growth in the state as "unlike any since golf."
Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, had echoed Clyburn, saying that Reconstruction "could be to Beaufort what civil rights is to Selma."
First named a national monument in the last weeks of President Barack Obama's administration, the collection of historic sites is still in development.
The park's superintendent, Scott Teodorski, became the first person to take on that role in a permanent capacity at the beginning of this year. Previously, he was chief interpreter at Congaree National Park in Richland County.
Though hours at the Reconstruction Era park site are somewhat limited now, visitors are also encouraged to visit partner sites in the area, like Penn Center, a former school for freed slaves on St. Helena Island.
The National Park Service manages several other locations in South Carolina, like the Cowpens National Battlefield, Kings Mountain National Military Park and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
Congaree National Park was known as the Congaree Swamp National Monument before it was given national park status in 2003.
The newly-signed Congressional bill also created five new national monuments and reauthorized a preservation program for historically black colleges and universities.