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Calls to Address Maintenance at Nat'l. Parks, Including Harpers Ferry

Supporters of Harpers Ferry say the National Park Service needs funds to help maintain historic sites like John Brown's Fort, where the abolitionist made his last stand. (Mamageek/Wikimedia)
Supporters of Harpers Ferry say the National Park Service needs funds to help maintain historic sites like John Brown's Fort, where the abolitionist made his last stand. (Mamageek/Wikimedia)
June 24, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Legislation in Congress would fund half of the estimated $12 billion in backlogged maintenance in the National Park System over five years.

Folks say that's desperately needed in places like Harpers Ferry.

There's tens of millions of dollars’ worth of work to be done in West Virginia alone. And Cathy Baldau, executive director of the Harpers Ferry Park Association says a big chunk of is in that beautiful and historically vital location.

Baldau says much of Harpers Ferry was falling down when the park system came in 75 years ago, and it's been decades since any major work was done.

"It's really affecting the visitor experiences in the park,” she states. “There's museums that we've had to close because of water damage. Failing HVAC systems, so there's museums that have no air conditioning. There's trail work that needs to be done, trails that might need to be closed."

Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation all have signed on to co-sponsor either Senate Bill 500 or House Resolution 1225. The money would come not from individual taxes, but from mineral royalties on public lands.

Retired long-time park ranger Marsha Wassel points out one of the park system's stated goals is to preserve and protect the nation's special, even sacred, places for our children and grandchildren.

She says for decades while she was a ranger at Harpers Ferry, the park wanted to preserve what's known as the Lockwood Home. It was built for an Army paymaster in the early 1800s, then used as the Civil War headquarters for two union generals, and later as part of a college for newly freed slaves.

"It tells the armory story, it tells the African-American history story, it tells a Civil War story,” she points out. “But unfortunately, there's never been money, and you know, when buildings are not kept up, they continue to crumble. And are we preserving and are we protecting?"

Wassel says about 300,000 - people visit Harpers Ferry each year. And she says estimates are that catching up on the maintenance would create another 100,000 jobs nationwide.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV