U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, spoke Friday while visiting the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument near Xenia. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

Charles Young National Monument could get repair funding

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, the sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act, touted the prospects for repairs as he visited the monument, 1120 U.S. 42 in Greene County, on Friday afternoon.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act. This legislation will help address the more than $12 billion of backlog in delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service.

“Our parks, for the last two decades, have suffered greatly from a lack of investment,” Portman said on Friday.

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The cost of deferred maintenance at Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is $2.4 million. The park’s annual budget is around $700,000, Portman said. In Ohio, there is $114 million worth of deferred maintenance on National Park sites, according to the senator’s website.

Some of the maintenance that needs to be done at the Charles Young Buffalo Soldier National Monument includes repaving the parking lot, repairing an old shed and adding a trail around the back acres of the property.

“This bill provides funding for repairs that the park’s annual budget could never cover,” Portman said.

Portman said the funds from the bill, if passed and signed into law, could start flowing next year.

“This could not only be great for the park and from a historical aspect,” he said, “but this could be a great economic boom for the local area. People would be staying in hotels and eating at restaurants when they come visit … not to mention all the jobs that construction and maintenance would create locally.”

The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act, that addresses the deferred maintenance backlog across federal land management agencies and provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Portman introduced the bill in February of 2019.

“The National Park Service took this over several years ago. I was part of that because I wanted to preserve the great history of this house and the person who lived here,” Portman said. “Because of what we know about Charles Young, I think he would have been a big supporter of this. I’m sure he’s smiling down on us.”

Charles Young was born in Kentucky in 1864. He was a slave and escaped to freedom in Ohio. Young was the third Black graduate of West Point, and the first truly successful graduate, said historian Brian Shellum.

Young was also one of the first military sciences professors at Wilberforce College, the equivalent of the current ROTC program. He came to Wilberforce in 1894 and bought the house soon after with his mother. He raised his children in the house and came back to the house even after being stationed across the world, Shellum said.

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The house was also a station on the Underground Railroad before Young bought the house.

Young was a trailblazer: he was one of the first Black officers in the military and the first Black superintendent of a National Park, Sequoia. In front of the house is a large boulder from Sequoia National Park with the historical plaque attached to it. The plaque was donated by the National Park Service because of Young’s service to the organization.

Young was also one of the first military attaches, an intelligence officer who also served as an adviser to an ambassador.

He was stationed in Haiti for three years.

Renotta Young and her daughter Rhavie Kelly, both descendants of Charles Young, also were at the park on Friday.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time,” Renotta Young said. “I grew up playing in this house and lived right down the road. I’m so happy that someone like (Charles Young), his just due is finally coming.”

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