It's been a year since a 45-foot-wide, 2,000-foot-long trench was blazed, without permission, through a portion of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to lay utility lines for a commercial development. And still the government has not taken any action against the developers. To call attention to this, a candlelight vigil is planned for August 17th at the park.
The utilities are intended to serve acreage on one side of the park that a developer has wanted to turn into a commercial center with 2 million square feet of office and retail space. While the contractor holds an easement to the utility corridor in question, he apparently failed to go through the required NPS permitting process before proceeding with the work.
Last October a number of groups asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to see that the developer was prosecuted. The clock continues to tick on this request.
"During the weekend of August 19 and 20, 2006, a consortium of local developers arrogantly dug an enormous 1,900 foot trench on National Park Service property on historic School House Ridge – then proceeded to lay a water and sewer line without a permit or permission from NPS," say officials with the Civil War Preservation Trust.
"The response to the unauthorized bulldozing was immediate and impassioned. Thousands of Civil War Preservation Trust members signed petitions urging the Department of the Interior to take action against the perpetrators of this outrage," says Jim Campi, the trust's spokesman. "We were joined by other national and local groups who expressed dismay at these events. And we waited patiently for the federal government to stand up and protect land we had worked so hard to preserve for future generations."
According to Erin St. John, the Mid-Atlantic field representative for the National Parks Conservation Association, while Interior Department officials want to proceed with the case against the developers, it's stalled at the Justice Department.
"No government action has been taken at this time. The Department of Justice is where the holdup is,” she tells me.
With hopes of drawing attention to this matter, the candlelight vigil will be held August 17th at the Perry Orchard Property in the park, near the intersection of Routes 27 and 340 in Jefferson County, West Virginia. If you can make it to the vigil, it's slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. with addresses by officials from the Civil War Preservation Trust and the NPCA followed by the vigil.