Threats to Gettysburg – I. History pivoted in Gettysburg, not once, but twice.



(Note from author of series: Esteemed members of the Gettysburg Discussion Group – GDG, I am a newspaper reporter living and working in the Gettysburg area since 1985. I currently work for the Evening Sun in Hanover, a town 15 miles east of Gettysburg. I work out of my home five miles south of Gettysburg off the Emmitsburg Road. In 1993, I was approached by the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg (FNPG) to write a series of articles for their newsletter. I was approached because much of my writing as a newspaper reporter had been on the effects of growth on the county. The articles appeared under my byline and, incidentally, with the approval of my editor. An abbreviated form of the series appeared in The Evening Sun some time later. With the permission of the Lawrence’s and the FNPG, here are the five newsletter articles. Naturally, over the passage of time, some of this information has become outdated. Yours, Terry W. Burger, Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania, November 27, 1997.)


October 11, 1993


By Terry W. Burger



July 1-3, 1863, the Confederate Army, led by the near-legendary Robert E. Lee, made its first and only thrust north of the Mason-Dixon line, a move as bold militarily as it was shrewd politically.

Had Lee's move resulted in a military victory, the course of the war likely would have been shortened, but it was not to be. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, thought to be virtually invincible, dashed itself to pieces fighting toward a small copse of trees on July 3. Its tattered remnants fled back to Virginia, to fight on for two more years.

Four months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Following a famous orator who had spoken for an hour and a half, Lincoln summed up the peril of the times in less than three minutes. To many, it is regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever made.

Months before Lincoln came to make "a few appropriate remarks" at Gettysburg, however, events occurred which began the process of turning the battlefield into a 6,000-acre memorial.

Only 20 days after the battle, a group of area businessmen began taking steps to preserve the sites where major chords of the battle were struck, including part of Little Round Top, Culp's Hill, Stevens Knoll and East Cemetery Hill. This effort to set aside forever land as national "hallowed ground" was a first, and in fact led to the creation, not only of the Gettysburg National Military Park, but also to the entire system of national battlefield parks.

In April 1864, that group of local citizens was granted a state charter to act as the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.

In 1893, the Secretary of War appointed a commission to survey the battlefield and preserve the lines of battle. Congress formally established the park in 1895 and placed it under the care of the War Department. The act creating the park was pushed by New York Congressman Daniel Sickles, who had been a Union general at the battle.

The original Memorial Association voted to disband when the War Department took over, turning over all its debts and assets to the federal government.

In a reorganization of the federal government in 1933, the park was handed over to the National Park Service (NPS), under whose care it has remained.

The 1895 legislation establishing the park was flawed in one important area -- it did not clearly define the limits of the park.

The language of the legislation directed that the park include lands in the vicinity of Gettysburg "not exceeding in area the parcels shown on the map prepared by Major General Daniel E. Sickles."

So far, so good. Sickles' map proposed a purchase of 3,874 acres in addition to the 522 already preserved by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.

However, the legislation also allows the purchase of "such other adjacent lands … necessary to preserve the important topographical features of the battlefield."

The entire area of major troop movements during the battle covered some 15,000 acres, including a large number of private holdings and the town of Gettysburg itself, federal acquisition of which was neither specified nor prohibited.

From the park's beginning, some have disputed the federal government's right to acquire property for protection from unwilling sellers. The first challenge occurred in the same year the park was created.

A trolley company -- that had constructed a rail line through the center of the battlefield to Devil's Den, despite objections by veterans of the battle and others -- immediately brought a lawsuit against the government to block the acquisition of their land by the park.

In a case that has been used countless times since as a precedent in federal condemnation actions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1896 in "United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Co." that the government had the right, indeed the obligation, to protect such areas.

"Can it be that the government is without power to preserve the land, and properly mark out the various sites upon which this struggle took place ... or even take possession of the field of battle, in the name and for the benefit of all the citizens of the country, for the present and for the future? Such a use seems necessarily not only a public use, but one so closely connected with the welfare of the republic itself as to be within the powers granted congress by the constitution for the purpose of protecting and preserving the whole country," the justices' opinion read in part.

In the mid 1970s, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the Interior Department, which in turn oversees the NPS, became concerned about frequent changes in plans for acquiring land at five Civil War parks whose boundaries were not set by legislation: Antietam, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Petersburg and Gettysburg.

That subcommittee asked the NPS to study precisely what areas needed to be protected. In the spring of the following year, the NPS submitted maps as boundary proposals for the five parks. In accepting the Park Service recommendations, Alan Bible, who chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, said alterations would have to be subject to the "full legislative process."

A number of failings were recognized almost immediately in the 1974 Administrative Agreement at Gettysburg, including the existence of a number of areas important in the battle that had not been protected. Despite the concerns over the Administrative Agreement, nearly a decade would pass before those failings would be put to the test.

The issue of just how much battle land needed to be protected came to a rapid boil in 1986, when the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, a private, non-profit group, obtained the 30-acre Taney farm, which lay outside the administrative boundary, and tried to donate it to the NPS, in a direct challenge to the 1974 Administrative Agreement.

Congressman William F. Goodling, whose district includes Gettysburg, successfully pressed his fellow legislators for a law requiring the Park Service to conduct a study of its boundaries needs.

Public Law 100-132, enacted in October 1987, required the NPS to submit a boundary plan to Congress by the next October. The plan was pulled together with the help of public workshops held in Gettysburg in July, August and November of 1987 and March of 1988. The resulting boundary study, which included 14 "resource areas" containing key sites and features of the battle previously outside the park, was presented to Congress in August 1988.

The machinery of government ground forward, and on August 14, 1990, President George Bush signed Public Law 101-377. For the first time since the battle 127 years earlier, the Gettysburg National Military Park had a formal boundary.

Having a boundary law in hand and making everyone happy with those boundaries are two separate matters. The intention of both the NPS and the new law is not to have the federal government end up owning all the land within the boundaries, but rather to obtain "the minimum federal interest necessary to meet park objectives for conserving and interpreting the battlefield." (GNMP Draft Land Protection Plan, Revised April 28, 1993).

Simply put, the intention of the NPS is to purchase outright as little land as possible, leaving as much as possible of the 1,900 acres now within the park in private hands and on the tax rolls.





Threats to Gettysburg – II. Things ain't what they used to be: Protecting parkland in the 1990s and beyond.


December 20, 1993


By Terry W. Burger


With the signing of Public Law 101-377 in August 1990, the Gettysburg National Military Park had a formal boundary for the first time.

The basic philosophy of the new law involved expanding the park to just under 6,000 acres, an increase of about a third. Most of that 1,900 acres is susceptible to development.

The stated intention of the new law is not to have the federal government gobble up all the land within the new boundaries, but rather to obtain "the minimum federal interest necessary to meet park objectives for conserving and interpreting the battlefield." (GNMP Draft Land Protection Plan, Revised April 28, 1993; copies are available by writing the GNMP, P.O. Box 1080), Gettysburg Pa. 17325, or by calling 717-334-1124.)

Accomplishing that goal will be easier said than done.

In late June 1993, the NPS presented to the public a draft land management plan to carry out the "resource preservation" requirements of the Boundary Act.

The 95-page Land Protection Plan contains recommendations for the level of ownership to be acquired by the NPS in each privately owned parcel within the park boundaries.

Some property owners within the new boundary have expressed fears that their property would be condemned. Park officials have maintained in the past however that only about 250 of the 1,900 acres added would be bought outright. Of the remainder, the park service would attempt to purchase development easements, in which certain development rights to the properties are sold, but the property itself remains in the hands of the original owners, and on the tax rolls.

Simply put, a development easement is created when the owner of a piece of land sells the rights to develop that property to another entity, such as the national American Farmland Trust, a government agency or private conservancy.

In the agricultural land preservation programs run by Pennsylvania and other states, easements are purchased at 85 percent of the difference between the agricultural value of the land and that land's value at its "highest and best," meaning "developed," value. NPS negotiations will vary from property to property, as in each case the NPS will be attempting to protect specific and varying aspects of that property, park service sources said.

The new boundary contains 116 properties in which the NPS may someday purchase an interest, a process more complex now than in the past.

During a June 1993 public meeting held regarding the updating of the park's Land Management Plan, Gettysburg Superintendent Jose A. Cisneros said that 20 years ago the properties would have been identified, Congress would have funded a massive buyout, and that would have been that.

"Today, we have to look for willing sellers," he said. "If there are no willing sellers, we have no authority to purchase."

Cisneros said later that properties could be taken by eminent domain, but that would only happen under very specific circumstances.

Eminent domain, or "condemnation" is used by the NPS reluctantly, at least in part because it is a "no win" situation for the federal government and a public relations nightmare. No matter the rationale behind the action, the Park Service and the federal government are unfailingly and enthusiastically painted as the 'bad guys.'

In the autumn of 1992, the NPS settled out of court with the owner of a local auction gallery who constructed a commercial building within the new boundary. The property had been purchased after the publication of the 1988 study from which the Boundary Act was formed, but before the Act was signed into law. Construction of the auction gallery began a year after the Boundary Act was signed.

The agreement reached between the federal government and the owner of the auction gallery included a cash settlement of $548,000.

Before the settlement was reached, the gallery owner had reportedly garnered 10,000 signatures on a petition supporting his right to stay where he was.

Two local attorneys, who each represent several landowners within the park, said they believe the general ban on new development created by the new boundary act adversely affects the value of property within the new boundary.

Ron Hagerman, a past president of the county bar association, said he has a client who owns a parcel of less than 10 acres, about a quarter of which falls within the park's zone of interest.

"My client is afraid the park service's interest in that part of her land will have a deleterious effect on her ability to get a good price for her land when and if she decides to sell it," Hagerman said.

Another attorney, who spoke only on condition his name not be used, was more general in his criticism of the real impact of the boundary act.

"What they end up doing in essence is to deprive people of the opportunity to maximize the value of their property through the threat of condemnation."

The attorney said the threat that an attempt by a property owner to develop his or her property could possibly result in an NPS-initiated condemnation proceeding "freezes" the value of that piece of land.

"I don't dispute the fact that the NPS has a right to condemn for historical purposes. What disturbs me is how they operate here. It's almost like inverse condemnation, where you so restrict a piece of ground that it is tantamount to a taking. There have been some U.S. Supreme Court cases on that subject in the past four or five years," he said. "I think it stinks."

Robert Monahan Jr., a Gettysburg businessman and real estate developer, feels differently, however.

Monahan recently purchased a home on 18 acres of ground on the Emmitsburg Road. The property is bordered on two sides by the national park.

"In an area where zoning is not as significant as it is in others areas, anyone who is looking to make a significant investment in a home looks for ways in which they can protect their property," he said. "We looked specifically for a place that has that kind of protection. The park provides us essentially with a scenic easement forever. That will add significantly in the long term to value of the property."

At the same time he expressed concerns about the NPS and the rights of property owners in and adjacent to the park, the anonymous attorney quoted previously said many of the land-use conflicts centering [on] the park had not ultimately been the fault of the NPS.

"I think over the years we collectively haven't done enough to protect what we have here in terms of land-use control and that sort of thing," he said. "I think that's why we ended up with the National Tower, because we didn't have anything in place. (former Adams County Court of Common Pleas) Judge MacPhail pointed out in that case that the law is not sterile in that area; there are ways to protect resources. I think he was talking about zoning."

The tower has been a sore point for preservation "purists" for nearly two decades. The 307-foot observation tower was built near the Soldier's National Cemetery in 1974. Construction of the tower was fought in local government meetings and eventually in court, where the owners won the day. The NPS hopes to purchase the structure and dismantle it. County records place the value of the tower and the property on which it sits at $4.1 million.

The free-and-easy days of which Cisneros spoke earlier are probably gone forever. In mid-November of 1993 it was learned that the 1994 U.S. Department of the Interior appropriations bill approved by Congress will include $1 million for acquisition of privately owned land within the boundary of the park. Furthermore, Congress approved an additional $100,000 for the NPS to give technical assistance to the Gettysburg community in protecting their historic resources.

Congressman William F. Goodling, an author of the Boundary Act, made the request for the funds, and FNPG board members Franklin Silbey and Andrew McElwaine have been active on the Senate side of the aisle, and FNPG reports "laudable efforts" by Senators Harris Wofford, Arlen Specter and Dennis DeConcini in convincing Senator Robert Byrd of the Senate Appropriations Committee to look favorably on the request.

The 1994 appropriation will bring to $2.8 million the amount garnered through the efforts of FNPG and others over the past three years. Though no "small potatoes," the sum still falls about $11 million short of what will be needed.

Park officials have estimated that easement and outright purchase costs to protect adequately all historic lands around the Gettysburg battlefield would probably run $12 million to $14 million.

How much money the NPS can scrape together relatively quickly is important, because one thing definitely in short supply is time.

The opening in the fall of 1990 of a major four-lane, north-south highway through the heart of Adams County has put Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other urban areas within easier commuting distance of the Gettysburg region. Already, residential growth is increasing exponentially in Adams County, with the number of building permits issued annually climbing into the thousands. The population of the county climbed steadily in recent decades, and the rate of climb is increasing.

In 1950, when General and Mrs. Dwight David Eisenhower bought their farm just outside Gettysburg, the population of Adams County stood at about 44,000. By 1990, that number had climbed to 78,000, and is expected to hit 100,000 shortly after the turn of the century.

The impact of this growth will be more closely detailed in a subsequent installment of this series.

Recognition of the need to "interface" the desires of commercial and residential developers is not limited to entities such as the NPS. In August 1993, the dean of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences said his department is seeking ways to make the meeting of agriculture and development less fractious.

"It's a challenge not only in Adams County, but in a lot of areas in the state where there is a lot of population pressure," Dr. Lamartine F. Hood told a newspaper reporter. "We have to figure out how to maintain our agricultural community in light of the population growth."

Hood said development pressures had been the topic of a meeting the previous day between him and his staff and a number of county officials.

Adams County, of which Gettysburg is the county seat, has had its own agricultural land preservation program since 1989. The program was born out of the state's 1981 Farmland Preservation Act, first passed in 1981 but never funded until a 1987 referendum created a $100 million bond issue.

The Act covers farmland within Agricultural Security Areas (ASA), which are units of 500 acres or more used for agricultural purposes. The act provides protection to farmers in several ways, including a prohibition of laws within an ASA from defining normal farming operations as a public nuisance, forbidding the unreasonable restriction farm practices or farm structures, and requiring local jurisdictions to encourage the continuity, development and viability of agriculture within the area, according to printed material supplied by the state.

Locally, perhaps the most useful portion of the law will be the ability it gives the county, through the oversight of a state board, to purchase the development rights of ASA lands from the farmers, thus giving the farmer some "breathing space" and some money in his pocket.

As this article was being prepared, Adams County was taking another look at the 'fine print' of its Agricultural Preservation program as it relates to properties lying within the GNMP's new boundary or within the Historic District immediately surrounding the park.

Ellen T. Dayhoff, coordinator of the county's preservation program, said how well the two programs might 'interface' depends on who you talk to.

"We had discussion a couple months ago on the farms we'd be interested in within the park boundaries," Dayhoff said. "It's still under discussion. We've agreed to stay in touch. The problem is the NPS easements would be much more restrictive than ours are."

Recently, the county's easement purchase program has "interfaced" with NPS preservation goals, with mixed results.

In June 1993, the county commissioners amended a county easement agreement with a local farmer, placing a county easement on most of the 211-acre farm, but allowing room for a NPS easement on approximately 10 wooded acres inside the GNMP boundary.

The NPS has listed that portion of the property as "high priority" for its own easement acquisition program.

If the farmer chose to sell further easements to the NPS, restrictions on the use of his own property would, as Dayhoff said, be more strict than the county's. Under the county program he can continue to harvest trees, hunt, and is permitted one dwelling and whatever farm-related buildings he wished to construct.

In another, cooperative effort, the county worked with American Farmland Trust to place an easement on a farm within the "viewshed" of a part of the battlefield called East Cavalry Field. The easement actually went to the AFT; FNPG will be working with the county to raise money to pay back AFT for that easement purchase.

Dayhoff said the NPS and the county agricultural board have agreed to "stay in touch" with one another when their interests coincide or collide, whatever the case.

"The biggest issue is whether or not the county ag board should be interested in farms inside the boundary at all," Dayhoff said. "Perhaps we should say it's in the park, and let the NPS deal with it."

How well the NPS's new land management plan will be received will depend in large part on how the public -- especially the affected public -- understands the program. Education of the public, and the public's elected representatives, will be important. In this case, however, the old saw about leading a horse to water may apply.

Six months after the Boundary Act became law, the NPS sponsored a meeting for elected officials from affected municipalities.

After two hours of discussion, a newspaper reporter asked the officials from the half-dozen municipalities represented how many had read the 59-page Boundary Study, the 1988 document from which the Boundary Act was formed. Only one raised his hand, though the document had been freely available to those officials and the general public since its release, and had been the subject of numerous local newspaper articles.

In the third of this four-part series, the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg will examine specific sources of development pressure on the area surrounding the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site.




Threats to Gettysburg – III. Like sharks circling: All roads lead to Gettysburg.


December 20, 1993


By Terry W. Burger 


The very factors that make the area around and near the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site attractive are the parks' worst enemies.

Rural and even wilderness areas combined with important historic resources have drawn visitors to the area for more than a century. A number of those have returned to live in the region.

Most notable were Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, who purchased a farm outside Gettysburg in 1950, though they were unable to live there full-time until 1961, when "Ike" left the presidency.

A number of Secret Service agents who served under Eisenhower and other U.S. Presidents retired to the Gettysburg area as well, as have many military personnel who had at one time or another been stationed at one of several military bases within a short drive of Adams County.

Residential and commercial development in the area around the national parks at Gettysburg has remained steady over recent decades, with few "spikes" in the growth curve.

As a result, the "parkscape" has remained relatively pristine, compared to memorial parks in more urban areas. But protecting the battlefield setting has not been easy, nor [has it] always successful.

Indications are that slow curve may take a sharp upward turn in the near future.

Robert Monahan Jr., a Gettysburg businessman and real estate developer, said in a recent interview that the 'pristine' quality of the parks in Gettysburg will become more important as more and more area in the region is taken over by development.

"I think over the long haul what the park has done preservation-wise has significantly added to the beauty of the area," Monahan said. "I think that will be of major significance as growth and development take place surrounding Gettysburg. In the next 10 years I see a tremendous increase in the number of people who want to escape the crime, violence and taxes of the Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia area. If you look around the northeast, people realize this is a very attractive area for them to live."

Factors funneling new growth into the Gettysburg area include a number of transportation projects that will likely change the quality of the park environment forever. Some of those factors include:

* The completion in September 1990 of Route 15, the main North-South artery connecting Harrisburg with Baltimore and Washington. The completion of the project has already caused a marked increase in commercial development -- planned and completed -- around several of the local interchanges on Route 15.

Less obvious but perhaps more importantly, the completion of the highway has made the already short commute between the Gettysburg area and the Baltimore-Washington area easier. A worker who lives within an easy drive to Route 15 can be in the heart of the nation's capital in about two hours.

Route 15 is not the only factor bringing the Baltimore-Washington section of the east coast megalopolis closer to Gettysburg, however;

* Continued plans to improve access from I-795, a feeder route extending north out of Baltimore, to the Pennsylvania state line near Hanover, York County, just to the east of Gettysburg, is expected to inject Gettysburg's home county with more residences and businesses.

Pennsylvania Route 94 slants from Hanover, near Adams County's southeast corner, along the county's eastern side, under Route 15 and then out of the county at its northern end. When completed, the project will open that highway corridor to Baltimore, which is only 42 miles from Hanover, opening another easy access for urban workers to the as-yet rural countryside near Gettysburg.

According to the "Hanover/Baltimore Pike Corridor Study," published in August of 1993 by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the populations in that part of Adams County on either side of Route 94 will climb from roughly 33,000 persons in 1990 to nearly 45,000 two decades later.

Put another way, that translates, again according to the corridor study, to an additional 6,000 occupied housing units. All those new people mean more roads, more services (schools, fire, police, trash disposal, etc.) and higher taxes. Studies have shown that residential development is expensive to a municipality. In other words, a single-family residence (SFR) with one or two children needing to be schooled costs the community more to service than the combined taxes it brings in.

How much local traffic will such new development create? Professional planners use a rule of thumb of an average of 10 trips per day (TPD) for a single-family dwelling. The total includes driving to and from work, trips to school, to the convenience store, to run a few errands.

Given that the bulk of housing built in Adams County has historically been SFR, 6,000 new homes would translate to an average of 60,000 new TPD, in large part due to the opening of the Route 94 corridor to Baltimore traffic.

Some other transportation plans, centered not so close to the battlefield area may still have a profound impact on development in the area around the parks.

* In the Virginia-Maryland area, at least three major transportation plans are in various stages of existence, and all of them will go further toward making the Gettysburg-Adams County area more of a 'suburb' of the Baltimore-Washington region.

* The largest project is a proposed additional bypass around the nation's capital.

Public hearings were held on the proposed new highway in 1990 by the project's joint sponsors, the transportation departments of Maryland and Virginia.

One of the three proposed routes for the bypass would funnel much of the traffic heading north on I-95 up to Route 15 south of Frederick, Maryland, a little more than 30 miles south of Gettysburg.

At one of those hearings, James Wynn, an assistant division chief with the Maryland Highway Administration Project Planning Division, said the highway was in the "first tier" of planning.

"If everything works out, we'll begin construction in eight to 10 years," Wynn said.

Though he admitted the project might meet enough opposition that it would be dropped, Wynn said he thought a bypass around the nation's capitol would be inevitable sooner or later.

* Highways are not the only transportation project planned that would bring the Gettysburg area closer to becoming more of a suburb to the megalopolis. Also in the works is a proposal to extend a transit line from Frederick to link up with the Washington metro system at Clarksburg, Maryland, according to the "I-270 Corridor Cities Transit Easement, Frederick County Extension Study," published in March 1991.

* A light rail line linking Owings Mill, Maryland, to Baltimore is already in service. The Owings Mill station is little more than a half hour drive from the Gettysburg area.

* Yet another rail project will link the D.C. area to Frederick. The "1993-1998 Consolidated Transportation Program" published by the Maryland Department of Transportation depicts a commuter rail line from Frederick to Point of Rocks, Maryland, to provide direct rail access to Union Station in Washington.

Pipe dreams?

"The line is proposed to be operational by 1998," Frederick County Planner James A. Gugel wrote in August 1993, referring to the Point of Rocks project.

Ron Kirby, director of the District of Columbia Transportation Planning Board said on August 30, 1993, that neither the plan to extend light rail transportation along I-270 to Frederick and the plan to build an outer bypass to the District have gotten to the funding stage.

"But I don't think the question is if they will happen, but when," he said.

* In Adams County itself, The major east-west route through the geographical and economic center of the county - U.S. Route 30, is slated for major improvements.

Part of The Lincoln Highway, the nation's first official transcontinental route, Route 30 just east of Gettysburg bears a traffic volume of more than 12,000 vehicles per day, about 10 percent of them heavy trucks, according to a recent state-funded traffic survey. That number reflects an increase of nearly 52 percent higher than the results of a similar survey performed 18 years earlier.

Route 30 is the major -- though not the only -- link to neighboring York County, where already nearly 10,000 of Adams County's 40,000 workers journey to work every day.

More to the point, it is the major route used daily by nearly 10,000 of York County's workers who live in Adams County.

Not that new roads are a strange phenomena in Adams County. The original county map now in use was printed in 1980 or 1981, according to the county planning office. Five or six years ago, the map had to be revised with the addition of about 50 miles of new residential roads. Most of the new roads were built in the southeast corner of the county, nearest the Baltimore-Washington area, and only 10 miles from Gettysburg.

Once the people funneled into the area by enhanced transportation corridors move into the Gettysburg area, the burden placed on the county's communities, and on the two NPS sites near Gettysburg, will also increase exponentially.

A county-financed study of growth patterns completed recently indicated a growth in population from just under 80,000 at present to more than 100,000 in the next 10 to 20 years.

Residential growth in the Gettysburg area has remained steady, despite a national recession and a slow jobs market. A number of planners and developers have said off-the-record in recent years that "things will get going really good when the economy opens up," as one put it.

Even with the economy not yet "opened up," a check of building permits issued in Adams County from 1985 through 1992 showed that the number of new residences in the county has maintained a steady climb.

According to the records, an average of 706 new residential units were permitted over that period. Most of those permits were for single-family homes, but a significant proportion was for apartments and other rental units. About 800 permits were issued for mobile homes.

Among the many examples of data acquired on numbers of jobs, houses, and commercial establishments expected to accompany that growth is a concern on the part of planners for the lack of recreational facilities in the area. That lack, plus the "ordinary" burden of 1.25 to 1.5 million visitors every year to the national parks, and the demands of special-interest groups, such as trail-bike riders, is putting tremendous recreational pressure on a park whose charter from Congress sets it aside as a memorial.

Residential and commercial growth in the entire eastern seaboard area means a need for more utilities as well. In the late spring of 1991 two major utility companies announced plans to run a 500,000-volt power line from a coal-fired generating plan in the western part of the state to Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg.

Local opposition helped to scrap that project by late 1993, but part of that 278-mile-long line was laid out to pass through the northern part of Adams County, one of the most productive fruit-growing regions in the U.S. Though not a direct threat to the battlefield, county leaders, feared the line could be a factor in limiting the number of tourists who visit the 'fruit belt,' thereby reducing by some percentage the number of visitors who would have come to see both areas.

There is a potential direct impact to the national parks from an electric utility, however. Metropolitan Edison, one of the firms involved in the 500kv line dispute with the county, owns a right-of-way for a 115,000-volt power line that will pass, when built, within the "viewshed" of the Eisenhower Farm. Some sources have indicated this line will be constructed sometime in the next decade.

The next and final installment of this series will look in closer detail at land acquisition efforts by private groups, organizations and the federal government itself. Included will be a look at a controversial 1990 land swap between the NPS and Gettysburg College, which has prompted a review by a subcommittee of the U.S. Congress, and how that deal may affect future preservation efforts.



Threats to Gettysburg – IV. The first cut goes the deepest.


January 14, 1994


By Terry W. Burger


If any one event could be said to have galvanized the passions of historic preservationists concerning Gettysburg, that event would almost certainly have to be the Railroad Cut.

In January of 1991, bulldozers showed up at the spot where Western Maryland Railroad tracks sliced through 150 yards of Oak Ridge, where some of the most important of the fighting occurred on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The cut was there during the time of the battle; the tracks, however, were not laid until later.

Most galling to battlefield purists and others was the fact that the land being reshaped by bulldozers had until recently been public property, under the aegis of the National Park Service and provided for in the Boundary Act legislation signed into law the previous August.

Most of that seven-acre parcel has now been leased over to the Gettysburg Railroad, which moved approximately 3,600 feet of track, excavating away what some historians part of an area that some historians said was significant to the battle.

The defense was made that the issue of the land swap was talked about during a series of five public meetings held for the NPS Boundary Study, the document on which the new boundary legislation was based. The study was released in August of 1988, two years before the legislation became law.

Indeed, the land swap is to be found in the boundary study document, which was readily available by request from the NPS. On pages 36 and 37 of the 1988 draft report to Congress regarding proposed changes to the park boundaries, the railroad project was listed as one of eight possible deletions from the park.

"A possible rerouting of 3,600 feet of the Gettysburg Railroad line from its current location on the Gettysburg College campus to one along the park/college boundary would require minor park boundary alterations. This change would provide benefits for the college and would not have an adverse impact on known historic resources," the entry reads.

The matter was discussed during a September 14, 1988, boundary study workshop help in Gettysburg. The following is from a partial transcript of a tape made of the proceedings by George Shealer, a Licensed Battlefield Guide. The exchange is between Gettysburg resident James Cole, Shealer and an unidentified person, and Jonathan L. Doherty, a planner with the NPS's Division of Park and Resource Planning, Mid Atlantic Region in Philadelphia. Doherty has left the NPS and now works as a consultant.

Cole: "Where will the railroad tracks be re-routed at Gettysburg College?

Doherty: " just within the existing park and continue up here, and essentially this would help facilitate that in a way that involves the minimal amount of park land that is not critical for interpretation."

Cole: "What is being done to the railroad, is it being moved immediately to the side?"

Doherty: "It's being moved, it would potentially be moved approximately a little less than a quarter of a mile to the west. And...we would not be. That's not our action; it's a private action that's being taken by (inaudible) and the College."

Shealer: "Yeah, but that sounds like you're taking it off the college land and putting it on government land."

Doherty: "Well, it's actually..."

Shealer: "You're trading government land, you're giving the college land, in other words."

Doherty: "It's essentially right along the park boundary. There's a small 50-foot-wide section in that area."

Shealer: "Of government land."

Unidentified: "Jonathan, would this affect the park adversely?"

Doherty: "Uh, no. We would tie the construction in with an archaeological investigation that there are no known disadvantages."

Shealer: "The base of Oak Ridge, in other words?"

Doherty: "...Yes."

Shealer: "Basically the base of Oak Ridge."

The non-profit Gettysburg Battlefield Protection Association filed a lawsuit in federal court 10 months after the ridge was altered, claiming the NPS, college, and railroad violated the public trust and a number of federal, state and local laws in the course of the land-swap.

The lawsuit sought repairs to the ridge area and punitive damages that could have totaled $12 million.

In July 1992, Judge Sylvia Rambo of the United States Middle District Court in Harrisburg dismissed the lawsuit.

Still, the matter of the railroad cut refused to go away. In August 1993, a little more than a year after the GBPA suit was dismissed, a Congressional subcommittee began to look into the deal.

Sandy Harris, who works with the House Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources, said early in December that the committee for which she works falls under the umbrella of the House Government Operations Committee, which has oversight of every agency of government.

"Our subcommittee has oversight of eight agencies, including the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service," she said.

Harris said she visited Gettysburg on October 30 with Congressman Mike Synar (D-OK), who chairs the subcommittee.

Harris said the subcommittee was urged to look into the swap, but said she was not at liberty to divulge from whom that urging came.

"We're very protective of our sources," Harris said. "People very concerned about it, people outside the park, are still mad as hell that it could have been allowed to happen."

Contacted at the time the story about the Congressional subcommittee broke in a Hanover, Pennsylvania, newspaper, Gettysburg College spokesman William T. Walker said the school's position has remained unchanged:

"We've always said we felt we've done the right thing," Walker said. "If these folks take an impartial and fair look at this thing we're hopeful they'll conclude the same thing."

Harris is taking a "wait and see" attitude.

"In this case we're talking about destruction of what had been park land, and whether or not that park land had historical significance and should have been exchanged in the first place. We have serious questions about whether or not, in fact, everyone knew what was going to happen as the result of this land exchange, whether or not the public was adequately notified and the right people in the Interior Department and Congress, and whether all the proper procedures were followed."

Dr. Walter Powell, an officer in the GBPA, said he was happy Synar's committee had become involved.

"Our hope all along was this whole matter would be considered by Congress," he said. "This is the first serious effort on the part of the people in the capitol to look into the matter."




Threats to Gettysburg – V. Protection: Building a dike in the rain.


November 27, 1997


By Terry W. Burger


Efforts to protect land from excessive development, in the battlefield area particularly and in Adams County generally, continue on multiple fronts. Defensive strategies, most of which will specifically benefit the battlefield environs only by accident, have been or are being formulated by federal, state, county and local governments as well as private preservation organizations.

Mentioned earlier in this series is the Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation Program, launched in 1990. At the time of this writing, the county program has purchased development rights on more than 20 farms, protecting between 4,000 and 5,000 acres of prime farmland, keeping it

in production and on the tax rolls. Total cost has been $6.8 million of state and county money, about 90 percent of the cost being borne by the state.

A quick word of explanation is needed to clear up a common misconception that development is necessarily a financial boon to the community in which it occurs. As the old song says, it ain't necessarily so.

Tax-wise, undeveloped land is not such a bad thing. According to a 1992 study commissioned by the American Farmland Trust in Northampton, Massachusetts, for every dollar raised from taxes on residential properties in three towns in that state, $1.12 was spent in public services, including education, fire and police protection, roads and other services.

Farmland and other open lands, however, cost the towns an average of 33 cents for every dollar of tax revenues. Several professional planners have said those figures are in the ballpark for the Gettysburg region.

That fact in mind, it would seem prudent for municipalities in developing areas to seek a balance of industrial/commercial development, residential development, and the preservation of open areas that remain in production and on tax lists. Efforts toward those ends are likely to produce some interesting partnerships between the private and the public realms.

One such alliance came together in 1993, when the Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation Program acted in consort with the American Farmland Trust, with the FRIENDS OF THE NATIONAL PARKS AT GETTYSBURG acting as a broker.

The AFT is a non-profit organization created in 1981 to protect and monitor the nation's disappearing farmland. The AFT and its attorneys helped the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania write its own Agricultural Land Preservation Program legislation enacted in 1988.

In July of 1993, the Adams County farmland preservation program entered into an agreement with the American Farmland Trust.

The AFT agreed to purchase a conservation easement on the 99.24-acre farm belonging to the Hoffman family. According to the agreement, AFT will hold the development rights for two years, at which time they will be sold to the county.

The $188,000 "hand off" is part of an effort on the part of the county to keep the momentum up on its Agricultural Preservation program without having to rely on the fickle enthusiasm of the state legislature to fund such programs.

"We worked out an arrangement based on a model purchase arrangement they made in Lancaster County," said Harry C. Stokes, one of the county's three commissioners. "We will be buying (the easement) back and owning the rights, with the state, using solicited funds and, if there is a shortfall, county and state funds."

Stokes said the county has approached, through the FNPG, a number of private philanthropic organizations -- including the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, AFT and others -- to help them purchase easements on prime farmland threatened by development pressures.

The original $200 million statewide bond issue from 1988 is essentially spent. County officials have said in the past they fear the portion of the state's cigarette tax earmarked for the preservation program will not cover the programs needs.

Foundations may not be anxious to get involved in easement purchases, however. According to Andrew McElwaine, an FNPG volunteer and a staff member of a Heinz foundation, who said foundations, which often are quite willing to purchase lands outright and donate them to entities such as national parks, have been generally skittish about getting involved in the purchase of easements because the title to the land is then more convoluted than such organizations are comfortable with.

As this series of articles was being prepared, Adams County was taking another look at the 'fine print' of its Agricultural Preservation program as it relates to properties lying within the GNMP's new boundary or within the Historic District immediately surrounding the park.

Ellen T. Dayhoff, coordinator of the county's preservation program, said how well the two programs might 'interface' depends on who you talk to.

"We had discussion a couple months ago on the farms we'd be interested in within the park boundaries," Dayhoff said. "It's still under discussion. We've agreed to stay in touch. The problem is the NPS easements would be much more restrictive than ours are.

The biggest issue is whether or not the county agricultural board should be interested in farms inside the boundary at all," Dayhoff said. "Perhaps we should say it's in the park, and let the NPS deal with it."

"Civil War-related organizations, The American Farmland Trust and others are very interested in Adams County, as a whole, not just the battlefield, and the AFT is a potentially significant player," said McElwaine. "They were the ones who provided the funding for the purchase of the Hoffman Farm. That's important. The state just changed a lot of the limitations on the county farmland preservation boards; the program in Adams County may be re-capitalized; that's a viable way of keeping farmland in farmers' hands."

FNPG Executive Director Victoria Greenlee said the arrangement between the county and AFT was unusual.

"The county wanted to buy the development rights, but they had already allocated their money," she said. "It was a relatively pristine area, near the East Cavalry Field. The county came to us and asked what we could do. What we did was put together a coalition."

That coalition was stitched together by McElwaine, she said.

"Our part in it, in addition to bringing the coalition together, is that we are committed to assisting the county in approaching some foundations and some money sources to pay back AFT."

Greenlee said the FNPG has not committed any of its own money to purchasing easements, but has so far acted chiefly as a broker. The involvement of private citizens and groups in preservation issues is a phenomenon Greenlee sees becoming more common as government dollars remain hard to get.

The FNPG intends to devote its own efforts largely to helping purchase property within the new boundaries of the park, and stay away from direct involvement with the Historic District encircling the parks, the FNPG official said.

"What needs to happen is somehow we have to make a vehicle where people can donate their easements and take advantage of all the tax breaks," she said. "There are people whose income is such that if they could amortize a five-year tax break, they'd love it. That's an area where we haven't even scratched the surface."

Greenlee said the county government is looking into beginning a land trust or conservancy, which would be an independent 501-3c non-profit organization with its own board of directors.

Commissioner Stokes said the county would also look into the possibility of tapping into the state's new Key 93 funds.

The bulk of the $50 million bond issue, passed overwhelmingly in the November elections, would go to state and local parks, trails, natural areas and game lands, about $14 million will be earmarked for the state's historic sites, museums, public libraries and zoos. Stokes said some of the enabling legislation language may make funds available to a conservancy such as the county hopes to create.

In April of 1993, the Adams County government sent representatives of their farmland protection program to Washington, D.C., seeking information on creating a private conservancy to help preserve farmland.

Dayhoff said the county is exploring the formation of a private, non-profit county land bank or conservancy, able to accept donations of land or easements for conservation , recreational and other associated purposes. Such an organization could also take under its wing historical and recreational properties, she said.

A private conservancy would provide an alternative to the county providing further funding, which would probably require a further tax burden, something the commissioners wish to avoid.

Adams County Commissioners Tom Weaver and Harry Stokes said the hope is that the conservancy, which would be private, non-profit and not run by the county, would complement the agricultural preservation program. They said one idea is to have the conservancy qualified to accept donations of properties. The program could be bankrolled in part by the resale of those parcels, with development easements already in place.

The commissioners said whether the conservancy would be set up to accept land for recreation, watershed preservation and other uses is under study.

"We would rather have people donated into our conservancy, rather than into the park," Stokes said. "Regulation wouldn't be as strict as it would be under a NPS easement, but it would work very well in tandem."

Other private efforts to protect the heritage embodied in the battlefield include that of the small-but-potent Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association.

The GBPA, founded in 1959, is perhaps best known for sparking the controversy that eventually resulted in the creation of the boundary legislation signed into law in August 1990.

The GBPA, founded with the express purpose of purchasing properties important to the battle and turning them over to the NPS, set off the fracas in 1986, when the private, non-profit organization obtained the 30-acre Taney farm and tried to donate it to the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The farm lay outside an "administrative boundary" agreement set between the service and Congress in 1974. While some in Congress wanted to enlarge the boundaries right away so that the farm could be included. Congressman William F. Goodling (R-19) pressed for -- and got -- a law that required the Park Service to conduct a study of its boundaries needs. That study, completed in 1988, led to the addition to the park of nearly 2,000 acres, and provided a set boundary for the first time since the park was created.

The GBPA's property-buying abilities have been diminished in recent years because of the association's entanglement in another controversy; the controversial land-swap that led to the railroad cut matter discussed earlier.

GBPA President Walter Powell said the organization used to keep collection jars at various points frequented by tourists at the national park. Those collection jars, which provided much of the GBPA's wherewithal, were removed after the GBPA filed a lawsuit against the NPS, Gettysburg College and The Gettysburg Railroad in the wake of the destruction of Oak Ridge.

"Despite how uncomfortable a thing that was to do, I think that the original board (of the GBPA) would have done the same thing," Powell said, adding that the organization's primary efforts will continue to be directed toward the acquisition and preservation of areas important to the battle.

Time will be the worst enemy toward whatever preservation efforts are pursued by any group because of development pressures on areas around Gettysburg, pressures arising especially from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area.

Andrew McElwaine, who worked as an assistant to Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz until the lawmaker's death in April of 1991, is very familiar with the region surrounding the nation's capitol.

"In the Montgomery County, Maryland, real-estate book, the big book the Realtors use, you'll find ads for homes in the Hanover, Adams area. When you drive up Route 15 from D.C. there are all these large, four- and five-bedroom homes right on the Maryland-Pennsylvania line at Emmitsburg. I have a hunch those people don't work in downtown Emmitsburg."

McElwaine said that intense development is moving inexorably toward the Gettysburg area.

"But that begs the question: What do you do about it?" McElwaine said. "When the 1989 boundary study was done and the legislation was sent before Congress to implement it, Congressman Peter Kostmayer of Bucks County shut down the hearing on approving the boundary study by saying he wasn't sure the Congress should go through with the proposals, because he was concerned that the government was pulling 2,000 acres into the park boundary that is in private hands and had no money to buy it; it was just going to sit there. Kostmayer suggested the Congress should go back to square one and come up with money to buy the land."

The entire proceedings were delayed for about five months, McElwaine said, until Kostmayer finally relented.

"His concern has haunted me ever since, because he may have been right," McElwaine said. "We added 2,000 acres to the park that five years later is still entirely in private hands."

In a 1993 public meeting on the update of the GNMP's Land Management Plan, Superintendent Jose Cisneros had said that 20 years ago the properties would have been identified, and Congress would simply have funded a massive buyout.

"Today, we have to look for willing sellers," Cisneros said. "If there are no willing sellers, we have no authority to purchase."

At the time the boundary study was authorized, Goodling made it clear that he was not going to allow any more land to be added to the park unless it was done in such a way to protect the local tax rolls and the local property owners. The boundary act signed into law by President Bush in 1990 was Goodling's creation and so reflects his concern; the law clearly gives preference to the acquisition of easements, keeping as much property as possible on local tax rolls.

A Gettysburg attorney, who spoke in the fall of 1993 only on condition his name not be used said, however, that the easement program, which grew out of the concern for local tax rolls, was having a negative impact on property owners within the new boundary.

"What they end up doing in essence is to deprive people of the opportunity to maximize the value of their property through the threat of condemnation," he said.

The attorney said the threat that an attempt by a property owner to develop his or her property could possibly result in an NPS-initiated condemnation proceeding "freezes" the value of that piece of land.

"...It's almost like inverse condemnation, where you so restrict a piece of ground that it is tantamount to a taking. There have been some U.S. Supreme Court cases on that subject in the past four or five years," he said. "I think it stinks."

The thought occurs that an option would have been for the federal government to exercise a variety of eminent domain, except instead of forcing purchases of properties outright, purchasing instead only the development rights of those properties. McElwaine said that, too would present numerous problems.

"What does an easement mean?" McElwaine said. "Do they mean that Joe Tourist from Pittsburgh can go on that farm and look for the spot where great-great-grandaddy fired his musket, without the farmer firing his musket at him? What if that farmer wants to put up a non-historical satellite dish?"

At this point, it is not known how many of the 116 tracts within the park's boundaries will come on the market in the near future. At the same time, development of every description is pressing in from every side along the periphery of the park.

"It comes down to a day-to-day firefight," McElwaine said. "The Hoffman farm was an effort was an effort to get a handle on that."

Not far from the Hoffman farm, along a commercial strip cluttered with motels, restaurants, car dealerships, and shopping centers, stands a scrubby lot in a forest of billboards. Just after the battle, Hospital Woods and surrounding fields stood thick with tents, full of wounded soldiers.

The southern end of the battlefield has already seen once condemnation at the site of an auction gallery. Nearby, a large commercial camping ground, part of which is within the new boundary, plans expansion.

"What is probably not going to happen at the Gettysburg battlefield is a Manassas-type situation, where there was one massive development that's all-or-nothing: It's going to be piecemeal, death by a thousand blows," McElwaine added. "What could happen is what happened along Pickett's Charge, the tourist strip on Steinwehr Avenue; you could end up with things like that all around the battlefield."

On the western side of the park area, negotiations have taken place over the past two decades with the Gettysburg Country Club for an easement on ground, now a golf course, that was the scene of some of the most important fighting on the first day of the battle.

Gettysburg Realtor David Sites, who chairs the long-range planning committee for the country club, said in early March of 1994 that movement began again several years ago toward selling a development easement on country club ground to the NPS. "We're getting closer," said Sites. "We've gotten to the point where we've had an appraisal, and we're now in the process of negotiation."

Originally, the NPS was negotiating a land swap with the country club, to have been similar to the land swap finalized with Gettysburg College in 1990. Sites said the railroad cut controversy essentially squelched that idea. All that will be involved now is a sale of easements, he said.

The controversy over the trade with the college (see sidebar story) has left the NPS gun-shy over land swaps, McElwaine said.

"Any idea of swapping land is absolutely out of the question," McElwaine said. "What the park service should do is give them something like 80 percent of the value of the property, in cash, in return for an easement. If they can't protect that parcel, which is so essential to the first day, then they can't protect anything."

In an earlier installment of this series, commuter transportation access from the Gettysburg area to the Baltimore-Washington Corridor was discussed, including light rail and commuter lines either now in use or planned in the near future. Those lines are aiming toward the Gettysburg region like missile tracks.

The point of concern I have is that with those commuter rails open, real estate values in the Gettysburg area will skyrocket. That will put the current $12.4 million estimated in 1990, that will be obsolete very quickly and we'll be looking at massive appropriations to acquire these sites."

Since the boundary was expanded in 1990, Congress has appropriated $2.8 for land acquisition for the Gettysburg National Military Park. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated about $12 million will be needed to acquire all the easements and acquisition authorized by the Boundary Act. McElwaine said that figure is now perhaps 15 or 20 percent off, and the gap will grow with each passing year as land values escalate.

McElwaine said the Department of The Interior, under whose wing the NPS operates, is under constraints to submit conservative budgets, and so does not ask for money for land acquisitions.

"Congress has to pad that back in," McElwaine said. "You've got a fight on your hand every year to get that million dollars. The good news is that every year Senators Harris Wofford (D-PA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Congressman Goodling have been good about going out and getting it. Wofford has personally asked Sen. Byrd for the money. We've had that kind of support.

McElwaine said getting the appropriations is one thing; what the money is spent on is another.

"I think the issue we're going to run up against pretty soon is what are those funds to be used for and what is to be acquired? How many willing sellers are there? There are willing sellers and then there are willing sellers. There are those who are willing to take what the NPS offers them, and there are those who are not."

Those more entrepreneurial landowners may be frustrated by the monolithic nature of the National Park Service.

"The NPS generally does not vary from its appraisal," McElwaine said. "If you don't take it, the only recourse left, really, is the condemnation proceedings. That is only used if there is some sort of threat to the resource on the property."