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Byrd working for more money for Harpers Ferry park

June 30, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday night approved an additional $2 million to be used to purchase land to expand Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd said.

Byrd's office also announced Wednesday that the National Park Service has acquired 38 acres for the park in the historic School House Ridge area.

Byrd, D-W.Va., worked to include the $2 million in legislation for the park expansion and Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said the senator will fight to protect the funding in a Senate and House conference committee.

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Preservation groups have been pushing for an expansion of the park - especially in light of rapid development in the area - and enlargement of the park was made possible after Byrd steered legislation through Congress last year that allowed the park to grow from 1,240 acres to 3,745 acres.

Before the legislation was passed, various pieces of land totaling about 969 acres had been purchased or set aside for the park over the years, but could not be added to the park because it had reached its "ceiling" for the amount of land it could own.

The expansion plan also allows the Secretary of the Interior to pursue purchase of 191 acres of private land from "willing sellers," Donald Campbell, superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, has said.

The 191 acres consists of seven parcels in the School House Ridge area, which generally stretches along U.S. 340 west of Harpers Ferry.

School House Ridge is where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 troops in 1862, the largest capture in the Civil War. It remained the largest military capture until World War II.

Byrd's office announced Wednesday that the National Park Service has acquired a 38-acre tract known as the Perry Orchard property in School House Ridge.

The National Park Service paid $1.5 million for the Perry Orchard property after the Civil War Preservation Trust secured an option on the land, according to Byrd's office.

That leaves about 153 acres that the park service hopes to acquire in the area, Campbell said Wednesday night.

If the additional $2 million is approved for the purchase of land for the park, it would make a total of $4.9 million that Byrd has acquired for purchasing land.

Park supporters praised Byrd for his work to secure money for the expansion of park.

"Thanks to the support of Sen. Byrd, Harpers Ferry has become one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service," said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust. "His commitment to protection of this irreplaceable historic resource is one of the many legacies of his remarkable career."

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