06 February 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 3 comments

For the first time in years, there is money in the Federal budget for land acquisition at Gettysburg. From today’s issue of The Hanover Evening Sun newspaper:

Battlefield bucks: Gettysburg Park could get $2.2M for expansion
By ERIN JAMES
Evening Sun Reporter
Article Launched: 02/06/2008 10:42:44 AM EST

For the first time in eight years, the Gettysburg National Military Park could receive federal money to buy and preserve privately owned property within the park’s 6,000-acre boundary if the president’s 2009 budget for the country’s national parks is approved by Congress as it is proposed.

The budget is not yet law, but it includes $2.2 million for land acquisition within Gettysburg’s park.

The last time the Park Service received land-acquisition funds was in 2001, when the federal government committed more than $5.98 million.

Since that time, the Park Service has been under mounting pressure to preserve some of the remaining 20 percent of land within the park’s boundaries that is not already owned by the park, said spokeswoman Katie Lawhon.

“It’s been a concern for a long time,” she said.

Land-acquisition funds can be used to directly purchase privately owned property within the park from a willing seller or to purchase easements on privately owned land so that its owner cannot develop the property.

There are still 86 privately owned tracts – as large as 90 acres and as small as a half-acre – within the park’s boundaries. Some properties are used mainly for agricultural purposes while others are the sites of houses built in the 1960s or ’70s, Lawhon said.

The proposed budget also increases the park’s operating costs by $689,000 over the 2008 budget for operating costs, Lawhon said.

With that money, the park could begin to fill positions that have been vacant since funding was significantly decreased about 10 years ago, Lawhon said.

A 10.6-percent increase for operating costs in 2008 made it possible for the Park Service to fill seven of 16 vacancies. If the 2009 increase is approved, the park may be able to fill the remaining positions, she said.

“We’re starting to dig our way out of that hole,” she said.

About 90 percent of the park’s operating budget pays for the salaries of its employees, so a cut in operating funds translates into a cut in positions, Lawhon said.

Over the years, the park dealt with that problem by not replacing personnel who retired or left, she said.

“It would be completely random about which positions would become vacant,” she said.

The remaining vacant positions include two park rangers, two preservation workers, one human-resources assistant, two park guides and one tractor operator, she said.

The 2009 budget proposal was released to the public late Monday.

It also includes a $161 million increase in operating costs for national parks nationwide, according to a press release from the National Parks Conservation Association.

The advocacy group praised the increase but also criticized a funding cut to other park programs.

Lawhon said the Gettysburg park is “pleased” with the proposed budget but that the park would welcome even more of an increase.

“We still have some funding needs,” she said.

Contact Erin James at ejames@eveningsun.com.

HISTORY:

Land acquisition funds

1997: $0

1998: $2.95 million

1999: $1 million

2000: $1.6 million

2001: $5.98 million

2002: $0

2003: $0

2004: $0

2005: $0

2006: $0

2007: $0

2008: $0

2009: $2.2 million (proposed)

It’s not as much as I might hope for, but it certainly beats that big zero that we’ve had to live with for several years now.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. ptrostle
    Fri 08th Feb 2008 at 9:15 am

    For $2M – they can have my place. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Dave M.
    Fri 08th Feb 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Why all the consecutive years of zero $$$ leading up to this year? Who is responsible?

  3. Stan O'Donnell
    Sat 09th Feb 2008 at 12:07 am

    But Phil,

    Then they wouldn’t have any $$$$$ left to buy my wonderfully moated mansion overlooking the exact spot where Custer groomed his golden locks and picked the cheese out of his teeth before leading….not one….but two…psychotic charges right thru the heart of my bedroom/chamber of love.

    Back in July of 1863.
    That is.
    My wife would’ve slept thru it.
    I’d like to cash in on it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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