Suggestions vary for Harpers Ferry Park's future

January 14, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Broadening the park's scope beyond John Brown and Lower Town to opening the visitors' parking lot during the off-season to commuters who ride the MARC train were just two ideas voiced Tuesday night during a meeting about the future of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

National Park Service officials are working on a new General Management Plan for the park to guide the park through the next 20 years. The current plan has not been updated for a quarter of a century.

Leading the meeting, Stephan Nofield asked the approximately 25 members of the audience to share their ideas. He said he especially wanted people to say what cultural and natural resources in the park should look like in 20 years, what kind of experiences visitors should have and what kind of interpretive messages are important enough to warrant using park resources.


Audience members said people could be drawn to the park by a special event, such as fireworks, concerts or Christmas events. Holding such events and adequately advertising them could draw more visitors, several audience members agreed.

Howard Swint, who has filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, said "the second most important bell in American history" needs to be returned to Harpers Ferry.

To be rung by John Brown when the insurrection was fully under way, the bell was later seized by Civil War veterans and now is in Massachusetts, Swint said. He said the bell should be declared federal property and taken back. Sue if necessary, he said.

"It would be a good thing for Harpers Ferry to have that returned," agreed Park Superintendent Donald Campbell.

Other important artifacts, including papers affiliated with Storer College that are now in a private citizen's collection, should be acquired by the park, said Civil War historian Dennis Frye. Storer College, established in 1867, was one of the first higher education institutions opened for free slaves.

Current and future artifacts also need to be stored in an adequate facility, Frye added.

Frye suggested that a visitors center be built at the spot where buses pick up tourists.

"It needs a good central focal point. Our park visitors are very funneled into Lower Town," he said, adding that the park consists of much more than Lower Town.

The General Management Plan is expected to be implemented by the summer of 2006. Between now and then several more public meetings will be held.

"The future really belongs to those who think about its consequences," Campbell said. "This is an opportunity to make your government work."

More information about the plan is available at Feedback can be e-mailed to

A copy of a newsletter about the plan can be requested by calling the park service at 304-535-6224. Copies are also available at Jefferson County libraries.

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