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Park quest clears another hurdle

July 15, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A proposal to expand Harpers Ferry National Historical Park by 1,240 acres continued to make progress in Congress this week when the House Resources Committee unanimously approved the proposal, said U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

With the approval, the plan is ready for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives, Capito said in a news release.

Capito said she hopes the House will pass the bill soon so it can be passed on to President Bush for his signature.

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Capito supports expanding the park and toured Murphy's Farm last year to get a firsthand look at some of the historically significant lands surrounding the park.

The farm is in the School House Ridge area, where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 Union troops in 1862, the largest capture in the conflict.

On Murphy's Farm, Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill led a flanking maneuver that allowed for the capture, Civil War experts say.

Murphy's Farm was added to the park after the Trust for Public Land preservation group purchased it. Other large land parcels in the area were preserved but cannot be added to the park.

The land cannot be added because the park has reached its maximum allowable size of 2,505 acres.

Donald Campbell, superintendent of the park, said Wednesday he is "deeply gratified" by the support the expansion proposal has received in Congress.

If the park is expanded, the 1,240 acres likely will have a system of trails where park visitors can learn about historic sites on the property, Campbell said.

The lands also will be an ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and bird-watching, Campbell said.

Members from a large number of organizations who support the park expansion - including the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, Friends of Harpers Ferry National Park and the Civil War Preservation Trust - joined Capito on the tour of Murphy's Farm last year and asked for her help in expanding the park.

Although some of the properties in the 1,299-acre area have been set aside for the park, other land is in private hands and is under development pressure, park expansion supporters said.

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