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Bartlett canal bill would let parks sell, lease land

July 17, 1998

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown-area man testified before a congressional panel Thursday that the federal government strong-armed his family into selling recreational property near the C&O Canal 23 years ago.

D. Blaine Weaver's family has leased the land near Dam No. 4 from the National Park Service ever since, but the lease runs out in two years.

Weaver said he and 72 others in the same situation want to continue using land that, in some cases, has been in their families for generations.

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U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., has sponsored a bill to help them. It would allow the parks to sell or lease land purchased for scenic reasons.

Last year, Bartlett introduced a similar bill that failed. Opponents worried that it would threaten national landmarks.

Bartlett's office said this year's bill contains provisions to protect central features of the nation's parks.

On Thursday, the subcommittee on national parks and public lands heard Weaver's testimony in Washington.

"I have five grandchildren, ages 6 to 10 years old, who just completed a week of fishing and water skiing at our summer home," Weaver told the subcommittee. "Since they enjoy these activities very much, their question to me and mine to you is 'Why won't we be able to use this property after the Year 2000?'"

Although the National Park Service testified against the bill, Bartlett believes their objection stems from a misunderstanding. He hopes to iron out any differences with the agency, he said.

Bartlett said his bill gives the park service an incentive to sell or lease the land because money gained would go back to the parks.

"Previously, it went into that big black hole inside the Beltway," he said.

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