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Washington Monument Park to re-open

June 20, 2008|By THAISI H. VELASQUEZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington Monument State Park will reopen today, about two weeks after a series of heavy thunderstorms packing high winds swept through the region and caused extensive damage to the 147-acre park near Boonsboro.

The park will reopen today at noon, and normal operating hours of 8 a.m. to sunset will resume Saturday.

The park closed June 5, a day after violent winds knocked down trees and caused severe damage to the park's water treatment buildings and museum.

"To have a park closed for two weeks in the summer is devastating," park Manager Dan Spedden said.

Phone and electricity service also were disrupted, and fallen trees and branches blocked the main road and the hiking trail to the monument in several places, park officials have said.

The park is home to both the Washington Monument, a memorial to the nation's first president, and the Museum at Mount Vernon.

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"All the hazards have been removed," Spedden said. "And other then the museum still being closed, the rest of the facility is back to being fully operational."

All of the artifacts had been taken out of the museum, said Al Preston, assistant manager of the South Mountain recreation area.

With some repairs still in progress, the final cost of the damage has not been determined.

"We had to get money appropriated, contractors hired and we had to get the contractors out into the field," Spedden said. "We actually had contractors out working by Tuesday, June 10."

According to Spedden, costs so far include a $15,000 bid for tree removal services.

"We had 30 trees - enormous in scale - blown down," Spedden said.

In addition to structural and tree damage, strong winds and rain disrupted park services.

"We had no power, no phone, no Internet service," Preston said.

Spedden said there were no evacuations and no injuries to visitors or park employees as a result of the storm.

"The youth group camping area was empty and that was a blessing because there were some trees down in that area," Spedden said.

Camp host Bill Hollands, who along with his wife helps get the camp ready for campers, decided to weather the storm in his on-site trailer.

Hollands said he and his wife "were sitting out in the front of our trailer and it shook and rattled."

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