MEDORA, N.D. -- North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Gov. Doug Burgum hosted U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in the Medora area Thursdsay, Oct. 3, to highlight maintenance needs for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, as well as to discuss the recent efforts to establish the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Escorted by TRNP’s superintendent, Wendy Ross, the representatives arrived at the park’s Painted Canyon, their first stop of the day, just as a heavy fog rolled back on the snow-capped buttes, a breath-taking welcome for Bernhardt, whose only reaction to the view were the words, “This is wonderful.”

Before moving on to Medora proper, the secretary was sure to stop at the Painted Canyon gift shop, stamp his national park passport and stick a pin where his home town lies on a visitor map.

Getting down to business at the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the group met with representatives of several Medora agencies, such as Randy Hatzenbuhler, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, as well as the newly appointed CEO of the presidential library, Edward O’Keefe, to review the progress of plans for the new presidential library.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm about the vision of the project,” Burgum began. “Part of why we’re here is to keep the ball moving forward,” he continued. “It’s not just about having a good park and a good library next to each other. There’s an opportunity, here, where the synergy between the two of them could actually elevate and transform what it means to be a visitor to a park. We have an opportunity to rethink the whole visitor experience and what that could be.”

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Giving context to the Rooseveltian impact on the area, O’Keefe referred to Medora and its surrounding parkland as “the fulcrum of the hero’s journey,” in the American West. Speaking on the future-presidential library, the CEO displayed his excitement for the project: “I think this is such a remarkable opportunity because, in a sense, the fourth wall of this museum is the national park and that has never existed.”

After concluding the meeting, Hoeven escorted Bernhardt through both Medora, as well as the park’s scenic loop in order to review the south unit, which has been closed due to erosion.

“Around 700,000 people visit North Dakota each year to enjoy the tremendous beauty and significance of our national parks and historical sites,” Hoeven concluded. “The Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an important contributor to our economy, which is why we are advancing the Restore Our Parks Act and other funding measures to ensure its infrastructure can provide a safe and enjoyable visit for its guests.”

“It’s my fundamental view that the future of the park service depends on collaborating on projects like this,” Bernhardt said.