A behind-the-scenes effort to both protect Harpers Ferry National Historical Park from neighboring development and obtain land for a Museum of the National Park Service has been pulled off.
The complicated deal involved the purchase of 15 parcels of land encompassing 564 acres. The dollar-amount of the deal was not immediately announced, although details are expected to be forthcoming in the new few weeks.
In recent months there had been great concern that the so-called Old Standard Quarry property adjoining the park would be turned into a sprawling commercial center. However, this purchase effectively eliminates the current development proposals for not just the Old Standard Quarry property, but also for the Buglar’s Rest, Allstadt Corners, and Benview tracts.
Engineering the land deal was Concord Eastridge, a national player in putting together public-private partnerships. One of the company's affiliates, Stonewall Heights, LLC, consummated the purchases.
Under the deal, not only will much of the land that was purchased be protected by a conservation easement, but some will be set aside for the Museum of the National Park Service with an adjoining hotel and conference center.
"This is a fantastic ending to what could easily have been a catastrophe for one of the most picturesque national parks in the country," says Civil War Preservation Trust President Jim Lighthizer. "My hat is off to the development group that has made this win-win solution possible. It is further evidence that preservation and development are not mutually exclusive, especially when both sides communicate in good faith."
The Museum of the National Park Service had been recommended to be a keystone of the Bush administration's National Park Centennial Initiative. While it was absent from a list of 201 "eligible" centennial protects released back in August, there were rumblings that efforts were being made to see this facility materialize in time for the Park Service's centennial in 2016.
According to this week's announcement, the museum should be ready to open in 2009. It will house significant artifacts drawn from national parks and is expected to become the preeminent venue for the public to experience the diversity of America’s historic and scenic resources. Those familiar with the project say state-of-the-art multimedia and virtual reality displays could attract upwards to a million visitors a year.
The purchase comes after many months of sensitive negotiations between the consortium and local developers. Numerous local officials facilitated these discussions and endorsed the ultimate outcome as a major win-win for all parties and especially for Jefferson County, West Virginia.