22 March 2009 by Published in: Battlefield preservation No comments yet

From the March 21, 2009 issue of The Gettysburg Times:

National Park Service may buy country club

The National Park Service is interested in purchasing the 60-year-old Gettysburg Country Club’s 120-acre property along the 700 block of Chambersburg Road,.
BY SCOT ANDREW PITZER
Times Staff Writer

The National Park Service is interested in purchasing the 60-year-old Gettysburg Country Club.

According to Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon, talks are ongoing between the park and the club’s owner, Susquehanna Bank. The club closed in 2008 because of financial difficulties.

“We have been in touch with the new owners,” Lawhon said this week. “We’ve been in negotiations with other owners for years, but could never come to a successful agreement. Now, it’s beginning again with the new owners.”

The 120-acre property along the 700 block of Chambersburg Road is listed as a “high priority” in the park’s land protection plan of 1993. It sits within the boundaries of the 6,000 acre park.

“Essentially, we would buy the rights to subdivide the property,” Lawhon said.

When asked what the park would do with the land, Lawhon replied that the purpose of obtaining the property would be to save it from future development.

“It’s developed, but it’s not like there are 120 houses,” she said.

The Park Service would likely maintain the property as open recreational space. Also, vegetation may be cleared to enhance the area’s historic viewshed. The club sits on the site of the historic Abraham Spangler and Harmon farms, according to the park. Confederate soldiers advanced and retreated over the farmland during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.

Now, the property includes a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, other recreational areas, and a clubhouse.

“All of that could stay, and continue to be used for recreational use,” Lawhon said.

For the first time since 2001, the federal government is allocating funds to GNMP for land acquisition purposes. The park is slated to receive $2.2 million in 2009. Some of those funds could potentially be used to acquire the country club.

“It’s a very long process for the Park Service to acquire the land,” Lawhon noted.

There is no word on the property’s potential selling price, but there are a few signs.

During a sheriff’s sale in January, the “upset” bid for the club was announced at $2.79 million, meaning that the bank would not sell it for less than that amount. No bids were submitted, so the property went back to Susquehanna Bank, the financial agency that foreclosed on the property last year.

“Banks are not generally in the business of running country clubs,” bank attorney Eugene Pepinsky said previously.

Gettysburg Country Club, 730 Chambersburg Road, had been open since 1948 but found itself in dire straits in 2008 when club officials said its financial situation had “never been more serious.”

The club racked up more than $3.6 million in debt over the past several years to various groups.

It owed $2.9 million in mortgage for a new clubhouse and tennis courts, and the club owed money to at least 16 different organizations.

The new building has a 70-seat conference room; a pub that can hold 60 people; and a ballroom with a capacity of 250.

Following a costly development project in 2006-07, the club’s financial problems forced it to close in May 2008.

Club members paid to reopen the pool in June 2008, and the county sheriff seized the land in Sept. 2008.

Let’s hope that there is a way to add this land to the Gettysburg National Military Park, because its addition will restore a significant portion of the first day’s battlefield to public accessibility.

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