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Byrd helps get millions for projects in Panhandle

November 23, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Shepherd University will be able to build a $10 million nursing facility and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will be able to purchase more than 100 acres for an expansion thanks to federal funding secured by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

The $12.9 million obtained for the two projects was announced by Byrd, D-W.Va., on Monday.

The $10 million for the new nursing facility at Shepherd University will come from the fiscal year 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, according to a press release from Byrd's office.

The $2.9 million for the expansion of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will come from the fiscal year 2005 Interior Department and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which was wrapped into a larger federal funding package, the press release said.

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Both pieces of legislation were approved by Congress Saturday and will be sent to President Bush to be signed into law, the press release said.

The new nursing facility at Shepherd is needed to serve a growing number of students in the school's nursing program, Byrd said.

Since 1994, the nursing program has been temporarily housed in the Butcher Athletic Center, which is the school's athletic building on the west campus, Byrd said.

"Gymnasiums are for sports, not for training nurses," Byrd said.

The nursing program was moved to the Butcher Athletic Center after being moved from another building on campus, said Anna Devito, interim dean of education and professional studies at Shepherd.

Devito said she is not sure where the facility might be built. Construction dates have not been set because it was unknown when funding might become available for the project, Devito said.

The facility is expected to measure at least 50,000 square feet and will have classrooms, labs, office space, conference rooms and student study centers, Byrd said.

Byrd said West Virginia and much of the country is facing a serious shortage of nurses and the new facility will allow the school to admit more nurses, hopefully resulting in more nurses staying in the area.

"We are very grateful to Senator Byrd for his assistance with this outstanding new facility, which will provide well-trained and caring nurses to help meet the health-care needs of the region for years into the future," Shepherd University President David Dunlop said.

The $2.9 million Byrd obtained for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will help the park expand from 2,505 acres to 3,745 acres.

Congress gave final approval to the expansion in September.

Preservation groups and individuals have been pushing for the expansion, especially in light of rapid development in the area.

The funds will allow for the purchase of two tracts in the School House Ridge area, Byrd said.

The first parcel is the Kilham estate tract, also known as the Perry orchard, which encompasses 38 acres. The land is a short distance south of U.S. 340 and is under option by the Civil War Preservation Trust, Byrd said.

The land will cost the U.S. Park Service $1.5 million, Byrd said.

The second parcel of land is the Ott estate tract. The land encompasses 73 acres and is a short distance north of U.S. 340. The land is under option by the Trust for Public Land and will cost the U.S. Park Service $1.4 million to acquire, Byrd said.

The 1,240-acre park expansion will involve 191 acres that the park service had hoped to acquire from willing sellers.

Park Superintendent Donald Campbell said Monday night he "remains hopeful" that the remaining 80 acres of private land can be obtained from willing sellers.

Discussions are under way between private nonprofit groups and owners of the land, Campbell said.

The rest of the land for the expansion is either government-owned land or private land that has been designated to become part of the park, Campbell said.

Campbell said the significance of the $2.9 million to purchase the 111 acres is "just huge in terms of the scenic beauty of Harpers Ferry."

Campbell said Byrd is to be commended for his work to get the funding because the details of a major park expansion like this one usually take longer to work out.

Byrd also should be praised for acting quickly on the expansion due to the development pressure in the Harpers Ferry area, Campbell said.

"I just really think the senator's legislation is visionary. He's really looking ahead to the future here. This window of opportunity wasn't going to be around too much longer," Campbell said.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who also worked to obtain the money for the park expansion, said the expansion could generate an additional $1.2 million in tourism-related business in the area.

"Funding its expansion means more land will be preserved and spared from development," said Capito, R-W.Va. "Harpers Ferry attracts visitors to the region from around the globe."

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