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Trail blazing, fence building on workers' to-do list at Park

October 29, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Members of the Americorps organization on Tuesday constructed wooden rail fence along the edge of the Murphy Farm in eastern Jefferson County.

But this one would require special attention.

The fence, a zig-zag shaped structure known as a Virginia worm fence, was the type used in the early 1700s and 1800s to contain livestock.

To secure the fence, volunteers drove rails into the ground with sledge hammers.

Along the hillside they went, stacking the timbers and driving in the rails - all 520 feet worth.

Those involved in the project said it was not that hard.

Because the team consisted of 25 people, the fence went up quickly, said Americorps members Brandi Day and Martha Pundsack.

Even after camping out the night before, the workers were ready.

"We rough it at Americorps. It's hard work but it's going to pay off in the end," said Americorps member Heather Ann Bussiere.

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The fence began giving the historic farm the look of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Murphy Farm, off U.S. 340 near the national park's visitor center, was to be the site of a controversial 188-home subdivision before a national nonprofit organization, The Trust for Public Land, purchased it recently so the 99-acre farm could be turned over to the park.

Several significant historic events are associated with the Murphy Farm, including Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's successful attempt to capture 12,500 Union troops in 1862, the largest capture in the Civil War. On Murphy Farm, Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill led a flanking maneuver that allowed for the capture.

Last month, park officials said they would extend a hiking trail from the visitor center to Murphy Farm so park visitors could begin enjoying the historic spot.

The park arranged for the Americorps organization to build the trail and erect the Virginia worm fence along the edge of the farm.

Americorps is an organization in which young people ages 18 to 24 participate in community service projects. Members who put in 1,700 hours worth of service are eligible for a $4,750 voucher toward college. The Americorps group worked along with people from the West Virginia Citizen Conservation Corps, a similar organization for youths.

Many of the workers were from distant parts of the country. Americorps officials assign members to work on projects far from their homes to give them a distinct learning experience, Bussiere said.

Bussiere is from Nevada, Pundsack is from Tucson, Ariz., and Day is from Little Rock, Ark.

The women were taken aback by Harpers Ferry's scenery.

"It's beautiful. I've never been anywhere like this before," said Pundsack.

"To be here is awesome," said Day.

The Murphy Farm is accessed by the road that leads to the Harpers Ferry KOA campground. The road leads down to Murphy Farm and dead-ends.

The road bed for a long abandoned road extends over the hill and into woods. That is what Americorps workers are turning into the trail that will wind over to the visitor center.

On Tuesday, Americorps workers were making the 3-foot-wide trail by laying down 4 inches of mulch. Workers edged the trail with tree branches and timbers they found in the woods.

The trail extends steeply into a hollow and across a stream. Today, Americorps workers will begin building a 20-foot bridge across the stream, said Richard Gladden, local supervisor of the West Virginia Citizen Conservation Corps.

The old roadbed is the remnants of the Old Charles Town Pike, said Steve Lowe, landscape architect for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

"That was the main route west," Lowe said.

Americorps workers were told to set aside any artifacts they might find along the old road.

The group is expected to finish its work by Thursday, park officials said.

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