Key Harpers Ferry Battlefield Land Threatened

3 08 2010

Most of you are no doubt aware of the impending construction of a Wal-Mart on land near the Chancellorsville Battlefield.  Likewise you probably have heard the hue and cry surrounding the possible development of land outside Gettysburg as a casino complex.  These two parcels of land have something other than their proximity to major NPS parks in common: they’re NOT situated on battlefield land.

On Bolivar Heights-South at Harpers Ferry, development threatens property that IS battlefield land: on the evening of September 14-15, 1862, the right wing of Stonewall Jackson’s three division force under the command of A. P. Hill occupied Bolivar Heights-South as he maneuvered to turn Union General Dixon Miles’s position on Bolivar Heights, a move that effectively compelled the Federal commander to surrender the town.

Now that land, 406 acres known as Old Standard Quarry, is slated for 2.3 MILLION square feet of commercial space.  That’s more than 16 Super Wal-Marts, according to Harpers Ferry NHP Chief Historian Dennis Frye.  Add to that floor space acres of asphalt parking, streets, and lighting.  Last fall, under the guise of a timber harvest, the developers clear-cut the western face of the hillside, which you can see in the picture below, on the far side of the central strip of vegetation,  as viewed from the position of Jackson’s center on School House Ridge.

These are the same developers who in 2006 notoriously and illegally dug up and installed water and sewer lines on the School House Ridge battlefield ground on NPS property!  These lines, which make the development of Old Standard Quarry possible, are still functional thanks in part to our Department of Justice, which for some unknown reason has never taken action against the scofflaws.  The developers have somehow obtained a regulatory exemption through the State of West Virginia that absolves them of adherence to local planning and zoning ordinances – that’s right, these guys are obligated to follow almost no regulations.  What’s up with that?

The National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Friends of Harpers Ferry Park, and the Harpers Ferry Conservancy have united to counter the developers.  If you want to know how you can help, follow the links provided.

Steven Mynes beat me to the punch on this here.



6 responses

3 08 2010

I am pretty much convinced that we really will be the last generation to have had the opportunity to save all of these grounds.

I am pretty sure my state’s governor, Ed Rendell, doesn’t support the Gettysburg casino at least. I am under the impression that Wall Mart won the victory in Chancellorsville though, correct? Or are they appealing?


3 08 2010
Robert Moore

All the stuff going on is bad enough, but this one sounds like it takes the cake. I agree with you when you ask “what’s up with that?” When thinking of how a state undermines a town’s ordinances, and when the town should be the entity most concerned with development, and have the most immediate interest in how developments will help or hurt the locality, I get that image of Sam Elliott in Gettysburg shaking his head and saying “odd!”


3 08 2010
Steven Mynes


It’s not about who’s first on this one – we all need to get the word out. Thanks for posting on this, and for organizing a great tour last weekend.



3 08 2010
tom clemens

What is even more outrageous about this abomination is that the developers got a law passed through the legislature that exempts this whoile development from any local zoning controls. In other words even the people who would be forcedto live near to this atrocity are denied any right to control, approve or deny any aspect of it. What a crooked bunch of people!


5 08 2010
Steve Bockmiller

I am posting this here from the Antietam group per your request.

The posting fails to point out that the water and sewer lines at Bolivar-South
were installed in easements that the developer purchased from a previous property owner who then sold the land with the easement in place to CWPT, which then gave it to the NPS..with the easements in place. They had every right to install the utility lines.

The violation was that they failed to get the appropriate permits from NPS. I am sure the NPS would not have unduly held up the permit and denied the easement holder their legitimate property rights to use the easement (wink).

Based on my understanding of the forces in play in that County, I have a strong feeling that the 106 process was probably a target of manipulation by parties who wanted to thwart development in general in that end of the county.

Am I thrilled with development “the size of 16 walmarts” there? Of course not. But, we need to be objective in our analysis and argument or we come off looking silly and hysterical. Frankly, I don’t see there EVER being enough demand for that much development there anyway. That would be like building everything on Buckeystown Pike and Urbana Pike south of Frederick from scratch. Not happening.

Something to be concerned about? Yes. However, I think some hysteria is
involved here.


5 08 2010
Mark Snell

MPC wrote: “I am pretty sure my state’s governor, Ed Rendell, doesn’t support the Gettysburg casino at least.” You are wrong my friend. A few months ago, Rendell appeared on the WGAL TV news show, “Pennsylvania Newsmakers.” He said, as governor, he has no say in whether the casino is built or not, but he then went on to say that it would be good for the local economy and that it was farther away from Gettysburg National Military Park than the 2006 casino proposal by the same developer. Rendell and the developer, David LeVan, are friends, and LeVan was a contributor to Rendell’s political campaigns. BTW, Rendell (who also is my governor) was wrong about the location of the proposed casino: it is only 1/2 mile away from GNMP, much closer than the 2006 proposal.


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