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Museum of the National Park Service Will be Built in West Virginia


Historic buildings line High Street in downtown Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Photo by "Eye Captain" via Flickr

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.


I'm astounded... speechless. Americans love their National Parks, of this there is no doubt. It is one of the only efforts our government makes that actually preserves the natural beauty and historical sites of this country, and actually touches the lives of regular Americans. But a museum???? to the NPS???? Are they NUTS??? What a horrible waste. Right now there is a huge backlog of maintenance for NP sites, and they are going to spend money aggrandizing a government department? What's next -- a museum of the General Accounting Office?

"It will house significant artifacts drawn from national parks" - WHAT? They will remove artifacts from National Parks and re-locate them from where they have any relevence to some building in West VA?

Yes - this has Byrd poop all over it.

Of course, once the place opens for business, the waste will just be getting started. Speaking of...

During the past month I was required to attend four meetings. These consumed about 42 hours of my time (that converts to about 1,260 tax dollars). One of the meetings, which lasted a full three days, was attended by 16 people (that converts to about 11,520 tax dollars).

I have no issue with meetings. I only have an issue with stupid meetings. It so happens that ALL of the meetings I attended last month were stupid. Coincidence? Yeah, right!

These meetings resulted in the following accomplishments:

A bunch of people sat around and talked about their accomplishments. If the first person talked for five minutes, the next person had to up the ante and talk for eight minutes, and the next person had to up that ante and talk for twelve. I thought Show & Tell ended in the third grade.

We also spent a lot of time editing reports and plans. As many as 20 people would debate for up to an hour on the wording of a single paragraph. Really, shouldn't this be the work of one capable editor, if, indeed, the report or plan is necessary at all?

The third accomplishment, if we should call it that, was whining...LOTS of whining.

Very rarely did we accomplish what meetings are intended to do: allow for discussion and resolution of issues. Of course, such discussion requires independent thinking, speaking truthfully, and occasionally being contentious.

But hey....that's not in MY position description!

Simple Proposal #4: In lieu of the next meeting, get out in your park, identify a plant, clear a trail, or talk to a visitor.

Building this museum will bring more Americans into the fold and actually be an important tool in the drive to get the message out about how important it is to support our national parks.

There... didn't want you to have to wait for that to happen. :-)

Of course it's going up in West Virginia. Senator Byrd is the King of Pork! Some enterprising reporter or blogger should follow the money. Somehow it leads into Byrd's campaign coffers.

You're going nowhere on this one Frank. Government is rarely judged on results, only intentions. Since saving the wilderness and giving Bambi a wholesome place to live is noble in its intent, you should not be surprised to find yourself being labeled a blasphemous no-goodnik for ever daring to question the actual results, especially in any kind of cost/benefit analysis. Mary Bomar seems quite surprised that anyone is questioning her decision concerning snowmobiles in Yellowstone, especially after the expenditure of $10 million that determined less are better than more. Whatever you do, though, please don't judge the results of her administrative genius, only her intention to "make good decisions based on good information."

I'm convinced that very soon I'm going to hear an NPS supporter or WASO bureaucrat suggest that building this museum will bring more Americans into the fold and actually be an important tool in the drive to get the message out about how important it is to support "your national parks". Mark my words this convoluted rationale will be coming down the pike sooner than any of us could imagine.

Remember now, don't judge the result, only the intention.

250 million dollars?!?! That's enough to fund Crater Lake for 50 years! (Even longer if they stopped plowing the roads!) Good god!

Kurt, you asked where funds could come from for initial endowments to turn parks into public trusts. Well, here's a good source: government waste!

How can anyone who screams, whines, moans, complains about budget shortfalls in national parks possibly support a quarter of a BILLION dollars going to such a rediculous and completely unneccessary scheme? 15% of the NPS annual budget going to build ONE BUILDING when there are thousands of buildings needing to be repaired or removed? How many seasonal rangers could that hire?

Sorry about the bad link -- try this one:

Harper's Ferry already uses shuttle buses to get people into the town proper. There's a nearby flea market (a real eyesore) that wouldn't look any worse as a parking lot. Not that I'm in favor of parking lots...

Now where, pray tell, are all of those projected 1 million visitors going to park their cars? Is there available land nearby that they can bulldoze for this purpose? Maybe they'll eventually need a shuttle system to bring the huddled masses into their hilltop hideaway.

If this all sounds like an unnecessary federal boondoggle well let me tell you brothers and sisters----IT IS!

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