24 August 2006 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 7 comments

It’s been a LONG time since I was this angry about something. I received this press release from the CWPT today:


Historic School House Ridge Battlefield at Harpers Ferry Violated This Past Weekend

Harpers Ferry, W.Va. – The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) issued a statement today in response to the illegal bulldozing of a portion of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this past weekend by a handful of local developers. Purposely and without permission, the developers dug a deep trench through historic land owned by the National Park Service and the American people.

“Beginning on the morning of August 19, 2006, a group of local developers moved heavy machinery and work crews onto the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and proceeded to lay water and sewer pipes on historic land where Stonewall Jackson launched one of the most brilliant tactical triumphs of the Civil War,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer. “The developers had neither authority nor the permits necessary to do this.”

The purpose of the water and sewer line is to facilitate a planned development of approximately 3,400 houses proposed for construction both inside and adjacent to the Park Service boundary. To date, the developers have not received any local approvals necessary for this development to proceed.

“These developers knowingly and defiantly ignored federal laws regarding construction on public land,” said Joy Oakes, Senior NPCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. “Americans have a right to expect that land protected by the Park Service cannot be bulldozed outside of an orderly and legal review. We encourage federal and state law enforcement officials to pursue these violators to the fullest extent of the law.”

For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been leaders in an extraordinary and successful effort to protect historic lands at Harpers Ferry. With the support of local business owners, civil rights leaders, conservationists, history buffs, recreation enthusiasts, heritage tourism interests, and elected officials, Congress expanded the park’s boundary in 2004. Millions in federal grants as well as private funds have been raised to purchase land from willing sellers to add to the national park.

“We are horrified at this premeditated and unprecedented desecration of School House Ridge,” said Lighthizer. “For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been working with federal and state officials to protect this property. Last year CWPT appealed to our members to help raise the $1.5 million needed to acquire the site bulldozed this weekend for preservation. We are outraged, and expect immediate restitution from these developers.”

As the developers were running their bulldozers last weekend, hundreds gathered from across the country to participate in a National Park Service-hosted commemoration of the centennial of a meeting at Harpers Ferry in 1906 that laid the cornerstone of the modern-day civil rights movement.

CWPT is a 75,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. Over the years, CWPT has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 325 acres on the Harpers Ferry Battlefield.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 325,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.

This is an outrage that almost defies description. I can only hope that these bastards are prosecuted and that the financial penalty HURTS and is not merely a slap on the wrist.

If you’re as angry about this as I am, please send an e-mail to Interior Secretary Kempthorne at exsec@ios.doi.gov.

Scridb filter


  1. Michael Aubrecht
    Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I get the emails from Jim Campi too Eric. Believe me – we (in Fredericksburg) are no strangers to this. We had some entrenchments and embankments bulldozed over by Chancellorsville (or maybe The Wilderness?, I forget), by an overzealous developer a couple years ago – and the ONLY reason that it was ever discovered was that one of the Rangers came upon it. Then there was a long – drawn out appeal process that (IMO) resulted in some backdoor deals. The fines that were eventually levied on the builder was lame. Another one of those “local govts. catering to the developers.” I hope Harper’s Ferry has a little more integrity than F’burg.

  2. Tom
    Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Unfortunately this is an all too common issue and unbelievable that it still happens. Here in Charleston it was experienced in 1997 where a department of the County Government dug through an earthwork fort that was built in 1864 on James Island.

    Oct. 10, Ft. Trenholm Damaged
    Fort Trenholm, an 1864 Earthwork on the Johns Island side of the Stono River was damaged when a bulldozer operated by the Charleston County Aviation authority leveled parts of the fort. This happened one day after a press release describing efforts to prevent damage to the site was distributed to the media. All local preservation groups were assured the fort would be left alone. Authority officials attributed the damage to “miscommunication.” An archeologist employed by the authority described the damage as minor.

  3. Chuck
    Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Unfortunately, the developers probably figure that any fine they get will be cheaper than the process they would need to go through in order to run the lines.
    The only way justice would be served would be to require the developers to remove the pipes entirely, to pay for repair of the property, and pay an additional heavy fine in order to discourage such actions in the future.

    However, I’m sure the developers are politically connected (such as the developer Michael alludes to who bulldozed trenches in the Wilderness) and they’ll get away with it.

  4. Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 3:22 pm

    See, this is why a good ol’fashioned shooting would solve many problems…

    Simply shoot the developer and workers. No deals, no further hassle. Great deterrent to future idiots.



  5. Paul Taylor
    Sat 26th Aug 2006 at 11:34 am

    Many developers (and land owners) consider preservationists to be a monumental pain-in-the-azz, and in this case, have taken the ball into their own hands. From their perspective, if the “heritage” to be protected is scarred, destroyed, or eliminated, then their opponent’s arguments will carry no weight.

    I’m no tree-hugger, yet I do consider the big-time real estate developer to be one of the great evils facing our cultural heritage. IMO, they believe that nothing should stand in the way of their chase for the almighty dollar, ESPECIALLY something as intangible as “history.”

    I hope these SOB’s get what they deserve… but I doubt they will. I like David’s idea… 🙂


  6. Sat 26th Aug 2006 at 11:45 am

    I really have mixed feelings about this, Paul. One of my partners at the law firm works pretty much exclusively with big-time developers, and he’s a developer himself. Consequently, I derive a potion of my income from these guys. Fortunately, the ethical dilemma doesn’t bother me as much here, as most of Central Ohio’s history was bulldozed decades ago, and most of what’s being developed today are cornfields. So, it doesn’t touch me so much here.

    Having said that, I really do hope that the Justice Department shows some backbone and drops the hammer on these guys. They need to know that there is a real price for their arrogance.


  7. onthebus36
    Mon 28th Aug 2006 at 1:10 pm

    Has anyone heard any follow-up or updates on this?

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