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Harpers Ferry readies for visit from Clinton, Gore

April 20, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - White House officials and U.S. Secret Service agents on Monday afternoon continued to work out details for a visit by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Clinton and Gore were expected to spend part of Wednesday morning working as volunteers on the Appalachian Trail near Harpers Ferry, said Brian King, spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers Ferry.

King said Clinton plans to use the visit to promote Earth Day and the 4,800 volunteers who maintain the 2,160 miles of the 75-year-old Appalachian Trail, King said.

King said details about which section of the trail Clinton and Gore would visit were still being worked out.

King said Secret Service agents would decide whether hikers would be permitted to pass along the trail during the presidential visit.

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After Clinton and Gore spend time on the trail, they are expected to return around noon to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for a speech.

The park will remain open to visitors throughout the visit, said Marsha Starkey, park spokeswoman.

Visitors should park at the visitors center parking lot and take the shuttle into Harpers Ferry, Starkey said. She said she expects streets in the historic town to be closed to vehicular traffic.

The platform at which Clinton is to speak was set up Monday on the point of land above where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.

Details on whether the area would be open to the public or restricted to invited guests and members of the press were still being worked out.

A two-tiered platform was constructed for the press in front of the stage. A new set of stairs was constructed from the river lookout site down the steep bank to the Shenandoah River's edge.

Workers for Citizens Communications were stringing phone lines from the podium area into the lower portion of Harpers Ferry on Monday.

Sherry Estanich of Charles Town, W.Va., and Barbara Iames of Harpers Ferry walk daily from the upper portion of Harpers Ferry to the lower part of town for exercise and said they were amazed by the amount of activity they saw.

"You can tell they've been fixing up things downtown," Estanich said.

"It's pretty exciting," Iames said.

Both said that they thought Harpers Ferry was an appropriate place for the president to mark Earth Day, an annual event promoting protection of the environment.

"This peaceful, quiet place will be hopping on Wednesday," Estanich said.

The two women said they would not be in town during the presidential visit because they have to work.

Christy Huddle, 48, of Harpers Ferry, said she plans to stay home from her job in Montgomery County, Md., on Wednesday to see the president and vice president.

"I was surprised he picked this place, but if you think about it, it's got two rivers so he can talk about the importance of clean water, and it's along the Appalachian Trail, so he can talk about that and we've got pretty good air quality, so he can talk about that," Huddle said.

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