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Couple gives 375 acres to Park Service

December 20, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Silver Spring, Md., couple has donated 375 acres to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the National Park Service announced Monday.

Robert and Emilene Werner, who have owned the property since 1964, donated the land primarily to protect the wildlife and wooded lands on the property, which is on the western slope of Loudoun Heights, the Park Service said.

Because the 2,300-acre Harpers Ferry park has "reached its ceiling" for the amount of land that can be donated to it, the land cannot be immediately added to the park, park spokeswoman Marsha Starkey said Monday.

The park must get a boundary expansion from Congress before land can be added to the park, Starkey said.

Until then, the land will be administered as part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which also falls under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, park officials said.

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It is possible that the land could be added to the park under a boundary expansion that the Harpers Ferry Conservancy is supporting, said Eric Nasar, coordinator of the Virginia and West Virginia portions of the Appalachian Trail.

The conservancy wants Congress to authorize expanding the park by up to 1,200 acres. If Congress approves the expansion, it would be up to property owners whether to donate or sell land for the park.

It is unclear what the Werners used the land for, said Donald King, who is in charge of land acquisition for the Appalachian Trail.

Nasar said the land donation is important given the area's rapid growth.

"We're highly appreciative of what they did. It could have very easily been 100 houses up there," Nasar said.

Loudoun Heights is the mountainous area across the Shenandoah River from Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War, Confederate Gen. John G. Walker dragged artillery through the area during the Battle of Harpers Ferry in 1862, Starkey said.

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