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Will the Shepherdstown Battlefield be saved?

March 9, 2012
Shepherdstown Chronicle

A couple of weeks ago the National Park Service held four presentations on the question of whether or not to take the site of the Civil War Battle of Shepherdstown into the national park system.

Two of the presentations were held on the same weekday in Harpers Ferry and the other two were held on the same Saturday in Shepherdstown. The Shepherdstown presentations were at 10 a.m. and noon.

I attended the noon presentation. About 40 people were there. I am told that the 10 a.m. presentation had over a hundred in attendance. Almost all of the people who came to the noon presentation seemed to support the idea of taking the site of the battlefield into the national park system.

There was much discussion, however, as to which of three parks would make the most sense to administer the site. The National Park Service's charge is to determine whether the area should become part of the park service and if so in what capacity. It could be part of an existing national park, a separate park, a "park administered" location or not be made part of the national park system at all.

Two parks are being considered, should the site become part of an existing park. They are Antietam and Harpers Ferry.

Some folks at the meeting I attended wanted the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park also considered. I personally think that does not make sense. Both Harpers Ferry and Antietam are national battlefield parks and the Shepherdstown site is a battlefield. The "C&O" is, by contrast, a park for bikers, hikers, strollers and joggers. We're talking about two entirely different types of tourism. Both Harpers Ferry and Antietam are well-known and well-run national parks.

If I had to choose I would choose Antietam simply because it's closer. I personally think Shepherdstown would benefit tremendously, both economically and culturally, if we were able to attract battlefield visitors to the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. Battlefield tourists are among, on average, the highest spending of "historic" tourists.

The National Park Service wants to know a lot of things before it makes up its mind. One of the things it want to know is how strong and widespread is the support in Shepherdstown and environs for making the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown part of a national historic park.

My sense is that such support is indeed strong and widespread. It's important for local folks to make that known to the Park Service. I suggest that all who hope to save the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown contact the Park Service and make their views known. If you wish to find out how to best do so I suggest you contact Cheryl Keyrouze at the Historic Shepherdstown Commission. The commission is located at the Entler Hotel, on German Street.



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