PRESERVATION GROUPS PROTEST ILLEGAL BULLDOZING OF BATTLEFIELD LAND AT HARPERS FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 3, 2006
Contact:   Joy Oakes, NPCA, 202-454-3386
Jim Campi, CWPT, 202-367-1861 ext 205
Elizabeth Merritt, Esq., NTHP, 202-588-6026



PRESERVATION GROUPS PROTEST ILLEGAL BULLDOZING OF BATTLEFIELD LAND AT HARPERS FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

Civil War Preservation Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, and National Trust for Historic Preservation Urge Interior Secretary to Take Legal Action Against Destructive Developers

Washington, D.C. — The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) joined together to urge Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to pursue legal action against the developers who illegally excavated at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in August.  In a joint letter, the groups outlined the destructive impact of the illegal dig on the National Park Service (NPS) property, and asked the Interior Secretary to prosecute Jefferson Utilities to the fullest extent of the law, including criminal and civil penalties.

Jefferson Utilities, Inc., which holds an easement on NPS property along historic School House Ridge, illegally used heavy equipment to dig a massive trench 45 feet wide and nearly 2,000 feet long, to lay water and sewer pipes, in order to facilitate construction of more than 3,500 homes inside and adjacent to the NPS boundary.  To date, the developers have not received any local approval necessary for these developments to proceed.

“Like all of our national parks, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is protected by guidelines set forth by the NPS. To ensure that these national treasures are preserved for the use and enjoyment of all Americans, alterations to National Park lands must be thoroughly vetted through the NPS’s permit process,” said National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe. “In the case of this developer’s proposal to alter land at Harpers Ferry, the permit review process was already underway, and it had found overwhelming public concern about the utilities and the thousands of homes they are designed to facilitate. Rather than abide by that process and honor whatever recommendations the NPS would eventually issue, we are concerned that the developer in this case willfully and knowingly violated the NPS permit process. If so, this is a deliberate disregard of the safeguards we have in place that protect our nation’s historic treasures.”

The property in question is the recent addition of the 38-acre Perry Orchard Tract to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  During the past few years, CWPT, NPCA, and NTHP have worked with local business owners, civil rights leaders, conservationists, history buffs, and elected officials to expand the park’s boundary.  Following the illegal bulldozing, NPS officials at Harpers Ferry conducted metal detector surveys of the disturbed area and discovered several historic artifacts, which confirm that the site was of archaeological as well as historical significance. 

“The discovery of these artifacts suggests that additional historic remains likely were destroyed when the contractors removed dirt and debris from the Perry Orchard Tract,” said Joy Oakes, NPCA Mid-Atlantic Senior Regional Director. “Interior officials must send a clear message that such deliberate illegal actions will not be tolerated on lands held in trust for all Americans.”

“We are very concerned about the terrible precedent this incident may set at other national battlefield parks,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer.  “If the Harpers Ferry violators are not prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law, it will send the message that the NPS will turn a blind eye in the event of similar violations on national park lands throughout the nation.”

Americans rightly expect that the Park Service’s unique and irreplaceable historic landscapes will be protected from wanton destruction.  NPS officials have stated that they are considering the legal consequences for Jefferson Utilities’ actions, and evaluating options for enforcement and prosecution.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Kempthorne is available at http://www.nationaltrust.org/news/2006/Harpers_Ferry.pdf.

Civil War Preservation Trust is a 70,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.  Over the years, CWPT has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 325 acres on the Harpers Ferry Battlefield.  For more information, visit www.civilwar.org.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 325,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.npca.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the irreplaceable. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize communities.  Its Washington, DC headquarters staff, six regional offices and 26 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of local community groups in all 50 states.  For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at www.nationaltrust.org.


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