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Visitor's center sale hits roadblock in Jefferson County

July 26, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The effort to save a state-run visitor's center in Harpers Ferry has hit a roadblock.

The Jefferson County Commission was hoping to buy the visitor's center along U.S. 340 near Bolivar Heights and turn it over to the Jefferson County Convention and Visitor's Bureau to operate as a visitor's center.

The commission said Thursday its efforts failed when the owner of the building, Victoria Drumheller, turned down an offer it made for the building.

The commission declined to say how much it offered Drumheller for the building.

"We're sorry that turns out to be the case," Commission President James K. Ruland said. "I think we all agree that is an ideal location for that purpose."

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The commissioners said they would continue to support the idea of having a visitor's center at the site, but they have exhausted their avenues at this point.

State Tourism Commissioner Alisa Bailey said her agency leased space in a building that Drumheller owns on the property to use for the visitor's center.

Bailey's agency decided to stop running the visitor's center after rent at the building went from $150 to $300.

Other issues that led to the state's decision to stop operating the center included a lack of handicapped accessibility and no fire escape in the building.

Elected officials and people involved in the area's tourism industry have been trying since then to come up with a way to keep the visitor's center operating.

The visitor's center is located at a busy intersection along U.S. 340 near the entrance to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Local officials say it is an ideal spot for promoting tourism.

It is unclear what is next in the effort to save the center.

The center was to close Dec. 31, but the shutdown was postponed after state and local officials got involved in the discussion about how to save it.

Bailey, however, said her office was not going to fund the center indefinitely.

Because the land where the visitor's center sits is owned by the state Department of Highways, it is up to the highway department and Drumheller on how to proceed, Commissioner James G. Knode said.

Neither Bailey nor state highway officials were available for comment Thursday.

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