Re-enactors hoping to clear the air

September 09, 1997


Staff Writer

Organizers of this weekend's 135th Commemoration of the Battle of Antietam are asking pilots to voluntarily avoid flying near the area, even though there are no legal restrictions prohibiting such flights.

"We're trying to discourage it. We do not have legal authority, but we have moral authority on our side," said state Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, a member of the commemoration's organizing committee.

Poole and other organizers said they are concerned airplanes, hot-air balloons, television news helicopters or other aircraft could fly near the site of the event, disrupting the enjoyment for the estimated 50,000 spectators expected at the Artz farm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


"Nobody wants to see a hot-air balloon or hear something buzzing around like a mosquito all day," Poole said.

Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, said the aircraft could hurt the commemoration's historical integrity.

"It takes away from the 19th-century environment we are trying to establish and it ruins it for everyone on the ground," said Frye, whose organization is producing the event.

Organizers of the event had hoped to get the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit flights above and near the site, and contacted federal elected officials about a month ago in hopes of getting the restrictions.

But Poole said he learned Monday that the FAA only sets no-fly zones in cases in which the president is flying through or during a natural disaster. That left the organizers to make their public plea.

"People want to see it the way it was 135 years ago," Poole said.

Another bit of 20th century technology that could seem out of place during the weekend will be the presence of about a dozen Norfolk Southern Corp. freight trains passing through the Artz property each day.

A railroad spokesman said last week the company will try "as much as possible" to avoid having trains pass through area during the three battle re-enactment scenarios that will be the highlights of the event.

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