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Clinton budget includes C&O Canal lands

February 05, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

President Clinton's budget proposal includes $800,000 for the C&O National Historical Park to buy easements and land on more than 722 acres in Washington and Allegany counties, according to the National Park Service.

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A spokeswoman for Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said Bartlett is "excited about identifying funds for the park."

But Bartlett hopes the park will pursue easements, which allow landowners to retain control, instead of buying the properties, said Lisa Lyons Wright.

Easements give "more bang for the buck" by keeping the land on tax rolls, she said.

More than 80 percent of the land to be acquired is in Washington County, said Park Superintendent Doug Faris. All is within or adjacent to the park boundary.

Faris said in some cases he would seek to buy land and in others would prefer easements.

"We have developed a preliminary list of properties we have an interest in acquiring," he said.

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Washington County contains the largest single stretch of the 184.5-mile canal that runs from Cumberland, Md., to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. The money would help the park buy more contiguous land along the waterway.

It also would "preserve historic features that are currently receiving no preservation treatment and preserve rare and endangered plant communities," according to a press release from the National Park Service.

The list of the prospective purchases will not be released until late spring, Faris said. Park representatives will hold public meetings to discuss the acquisitions with landowners and interested parties.

"It's going to take us several months to get a firmer conclusion about what the National Park Service should pursue," Faris said.

He described the "top 10" areas but would not identify owners or specific locations.

One of the largest parcels is a tract of about 640 acres in the Four Locks area, he said. The park will seek conservation or scenic easements there rather than attempting to buy the land.

The park wants a 28-acre parcel near Dellinger Neck that contains endangered plant species. It also wants a 20-acre piece near Dam No. 4 and "the owner is receptive," Faris said.

The park owns an easement on 27 acres just south of Williamsport. It wants to convert the easement into a full purchase, Faris said.

The park is interested in buying two historic properties, including an 8-acre piece that contains the Antietam Cement Lime Kiln. Faris said the park owns part of a 5-acre site containing Antietam Ironworks but wants to buy the entire piece.

Clinton submitted his budget to Congress Monday. Under the proposal, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management would get more money to acquire land.

The measure is part of Clinton's $1-billion Land Legacy Initiative intended to expand federal protection of critical lands and help states and communities preserve local green spaces, according to the National Park Service.

The C&O National Historical Park has $250,000 in its budget for land purchases, according to Faris. The additional $800,000 is not a done deal.

"Congress will have the last word about funds through the appropriations process," Wright said.

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