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Crowd previews Burns documentary on national parks

September 23, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- About 45 people attended a preview Wednesday night of a new Ken Burns documentary about the country's national parks in the Bridge of Life church auditorium on South Potomac Street.

The six-episode television series, which begins Sunday on PBS, traces the start of the country's national park system in the mid-1800s and follows its development for nearly 150 years. Burns' film tells the story of the national park system using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters and analysis from more than 40 interviews, according to a press release from the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which sponsored Wednesday's speak peek of the film.

Also in attendance at the preview were the heads of local national parks, including John Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, and Kevin Brandt, superintendent of the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park.

Washington County is home to five of 391 National Park System units, and the film mentions Antietam National Battlefield, officials said at the preview.

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Brandt said he is not sure if other local parks are featured in the film.

Local national park superintendents gathered in the lobby of the local church among displays about local national parks.

Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the local convention and visitors bureau, said the reason his agency sponsored the preview was to help tell the story of local national parks.

Riford was encouraged that visitation is up 24 percent at the C&O Canal, which he attributes to people turning to more local recreation spots in the struggling economy.

Brandt said Burns' series helps maintain people's interest in parks, which is important because there are more forms of entertainment today to catch people's attention.

Brandt said there are many people who live along the C&O Canal who do not realize it is a national park.

"We want people to come out and enjoy the park," Brandt said before Wednesday's preview.

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