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Clinton budgets $2 million for Harpers Ferry park expansion

April 20, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - President Clinton designated $2 million in his 2001 budget proposal for Harpers Ferry National Historic Park to purchase the Murphy Farm and bring it into the park, the acting director of the federal Bureau of Land Management said Thursday.

The $2 million would be part of a total of $1.5 billion that would be included in Clinton's budget for acquisition of new parklands across the country, said the Bureau of Land Management's Tom Fry.

Fry made the announcement during an outdoor ceremony on School House Ridge, a battlefield along U.S. 340 south of Harpers Ferry that supporters of the park say is threatened by development.

"This is kind of our last chance to protect these lands," Fry said.

Fry said creating open space is becoming more of a priority for Americans.

"The public is clamoring for it. It's not a partisan issue. It goes across party lines," he said.

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School House Ridge is where Confederate General Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 troops in 1862, the largest capture in the Civil War.

The Murphy Farm, which is part of the ridge, is being considered for a 203-home development known as Murphy's Landing.

It has not been announced if the owners of the farm are willing to sell the property to the U.S. Park Service.

Martinsburg attorney Bob Trumble, who represented developers Josephine Murphy Curtis and Karen Fuller in a court case involving the development, could not be reached for comment.

There has been a push since last year - mostly led by a group called the Harpers Ferry Conservancy - to increase the size of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park by up to 1,200 acres.

Before more land can be added, Congress must agree to expand the park's "acreage ceiling," said Park Superintendent Donald Campbell. If the acreage ceiling is increased, then money from Clinton's budget proposal could be used to acquire lands, Campbell said.

Park officials said, however, that new land would only be brought into the park if landowners are willing to sell their property.

In could be as late as fall before it is determined whether Clinton's proposed money for park acquisition will be in the federal budget, Fry said.

During Thursday's ceremony, park officials also honored Robert and Emilene Werner of Silver Spring, Md., who recently donated 375 acres of forested land in Loudoun Heights to the National Park Service.

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