Putting the car in (a national) park

November 27, 2005|By Lyn Widmyer

I learned a very important fact at the opening of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The commuter parking lot at Harpers Ferry will remain open while the train station is renovated.

None of the speakers actually addressed this important topic. Robert Bonner, commissioner of something to do with homeland security, explained the Advanced Training Center will help keep our nation's borders safe and secure.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., proudly welcomed the facility to West Virginia and modestly acknowledged his role in obtaining $25 million in federal funding to build the training complex.

I listened intently until I realized who was sitting only two rows ahead of me and four seats over: Don Campbell, superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.


Commissioner Bonner may be the guardian of our nation's borders but Superintendent Campbell has control over something much more important to my everyday life. He commands the commuter parking lot at Harpers Ferry.

I have been parking at the Harpers Ferry train station and taking the train to work for 25 years. In the early days, there were no marked spaces and not a single "No Parking" sign.

The only rule governing parking was unwritten but religiously followed by every commuter. Drivers could park anywhere and block in anybody as long as they returned on the first train in the evening. When the first train pulled in, commuters blocking other cars pulled out and everybody made it home on time.

It was a wonderful system.

Of course, there was a downside to this policy. Many a parent, dropping their child off for a field trip into Washington would wave as the train departed only to discover a commuter had blocked them in. Fortunately, the noise of the train engine usually drowned out the frustrated screams of the unlucky parents.

When the National Park Service assumed responsibility for the lot in 2001, officials quickly changed the crazy quilt pattern of parking.

The lot is more orderly now, but there are fewer spaces. Competition for them is keen. As gas prices rise and Jefferson County continues to grow, finding a parking space is getting more challenging. I am leaving the house earlier and earlier to secure a space.

That is why I made a beeline for the park superintendent after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Advanced Training Center. I asked him about rumors that parking spaces would be lost during the upcoming restoration of the train station. Mr. Campbell assured me commuter parking would not be disrupted.

This Thanksgiving I will give thanks that my community is safer because the Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry will soon be teaching thousands of border patrol agents to "protect the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terror."

I also will be praying that all those border patrol trainees don't need a parking space at the Harpers Ferry train station to learn their jobs.

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