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Harpers Ferry park provides plenty to do in a short drive

May 26, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Harpers Ferry National Historical Park might have already found its niche in the face of rising gasoline prices, which some tourists say will affect their travel plans this summer.

With its proximity to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Harpers Ferry should be attractive for tourists who are looking to cut travel costs this summer while being in a fun place, according to tourists and Melinda Day, lead park ranger for the living-history program at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Not only does the park offer plenty of historical attractions, but visitors can enjoy other activities in the area like hiking on trails, Day said.

In addition to the trails in the park, the Appalachian Trail crosses through the area, and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet in Harpers Ferry.

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"There's something here for everybody," Day said.

Thousands of people poured into the park Saturday and Sunday as park officials remembered the history of the U.S. Armory and Arsenal that operated in Harpers Ferry in the early 1800s.

Between 1801 and the start of the Civil War in 1861, the armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols, and employed up to 300 people at times, park officials said.

On April 18, 1861, less than 24 hours after Virginia seceded from the Union, federal soldiers set fire to the armory to keep it out of Confederate hands.

On Saturday, the first day of a two-day program titled "Defend and Protect: Arming America's Soldiers," about 3,000 visitors came to the park, which is considered to be a large turnout, Day said.

The crowds exceeded 3,000 Sunday and park officials had to find other places for visitors to park after a 1,000-car lot filled up, Day said.

Pam Taylor and John Lins, two Baltimore-area residents who were visiting the park Sunday, said rising gas prices will affect their travel plans this summer.

But Harpers Ferry is a "nice, short trip" away, Taylor said.

Jennifer Berry and Buck Ancell, who live in the Inwood, W.Va., area, said gas prices are making them appreciate attractions closer to home.

"It's a nice place to come and goof off. Now, if we had to travel an hour, it would be a different story," Ancell said.

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