Camp Amache (copy)

Scenes from Camp Amache, a Japanese-American internment camp from 1942-45, in Kevin Kreck

Gov. Jared Polis wants to turn the former site of Colorado’s Japanese internment camp into a national park, preserving the area and its history for future generations.

Polis sent a letter to the National Park Service Tuesday, asking for its support in the inclusion of the Granada War Relocation Center, also known as Camp Amache, into the national park system.

“Preserving and protecting the Amache site presents a valuable opportunity to better our country, our state, our history and most importantly our future in the spirit of justice, equity and inclusion,” Polis said. “It will allow us to interrogate our past and understand a more complete story of our nation.”

Amache was one of 10 internment camps created in the U.S. during World War II because President Franklin Roosevelt feared Japanese Americans would sympathize with Japan's war efforts. 

More than 120,000 Japanese people, most of whom were American citizens, were forcibly imprisoned in the internment camps, including over 7,000 at Amache from 1942 to 1945.

Amache was unique for having the most Japanese Americans volunteer to enlist in the military and because of Colorado Gov. Ralph L. Carr’s public opposition to the mass incarceration at the time.

Amache, which is currently designated as a National Historic Landmark, would not be the first former Japanese internment camp to gain National Park designation, as Manzanar in California and Minidoka in Idaho have each received the status.

“(National parks) ensure our national history and cultural experience are preserved,” Polis said, “even when we are called to face dark times in our nation’s past.”

The National Park Service is currently evaluating the suitability of Amache as a national park through a Special Resource Study. The study began in late 2019 but has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study will provide recommendations on next steps, including on if the inclusion should be issued by an act of congress or by the president. If the study supports congressional action, Polis said he will “work to support swift passage of designating legislation with the Colorado delegation.”

Polis previously expressed support for designating Amache as a national park in February during the Mile High Japanese American Citizens League’s remembrance day ceremony.

The National Park Service will be holding public comment sessions to gather community input on the proposal later this month. If approved, Amache would become Colorado’s 13th national park unit.