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To expand Harpers Ferry park, or not?

June 07, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Scot Faulkner thinks it's time for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to grow.

Faulkner, president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, is behind an idea to extend the park's boundaries through voluntary land sales and donations to the National Park Service.

"We have an opportunity to complete Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, spur economic development and preserve the unique wonders of Harpers Ferry," Faulkner said.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Jefferson County Commission is holding a public meeting to find out if residents agree.

Residents interviewed in Harpers Ferry on Friday were split on the proposed expansion.

"I don't like it. The park's got everything already. I've got nothing against the park. It's great for the town. But they've got enough land," said Doug Taylor, 48, of Bolivar, W.Va.

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"They own enough. They try to rule the whole town now. They don't need to own any more of it," said Donna Miller, 39, of Harpers Ferry.

A 1989 study showed that 2,074 acres outside the park's boundaries in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland are historically important and should be preserved, Faulkner said.

Landowners and Civil War land preservation groups already have obtained 580 acres to protect them. An additional 960 acres in the study area is for sale, Faulkner said.

Getting the approval of the county commission is the first step toward getting federal legislation drafted to extend the park's boundaries, Faulkner said.

That would help provide funds to buy the land advertised for sale, he said.

Such legislation would not force landowners to sell their property and it would not change local land-use laws, Faulkner said.

"No land value is impacted as the legislation does not condemn land, down zone land, or in any other way encumber the rights of private landowners," Faulkner said.

If the federal legislation is passed, then the preservation groups will be able to obtain more donations to buy the land for the National Park, Faulkner said.

"If the people are willing to sell, I don't see anything wrong with it," said Becky Wilt, 35, of Harpers Ferry.

"I think it's wonderful. The park is one of the greatest assets this county has," said Lynne Ogden, 55, of Bakerton, W.Va.

Faulkner said the land could be leased to farmers by the National Park Service and still be preserved. The land also could have trails built with cannons placed and markers to show what happened at Harpers Ferry.

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