Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Development Still Threatens Battlefield

An editorial from The Hanover Evening Sun

"We suspect a bunch of the no-casino folks have declared victory and marched home.

But we hope they stick around a bit longer - the fight to keep the battlefield safe is far from over.

One group that insists it's in the fight for the duration is the Civil War Preservation Trust, which spearheaded the national fight against the erstwhile slots parlor in Straban Township.

"The casino proposal itself was merely a symptom of a larger development problem plaguing Gettysburg," trust President Jim Lighthizer said after state gaming authorities denied the license application for local slots. "The ... trust is committed to working with other preservation groups to protect the Gettysburg battleground."

The CWPT is reportedly interested in helping to save Hunterstown, the village north of Gettysburg near the site of a ferocious cavalry battle July 2, 1863, the second day of the three-day battle.

Hunterstown activists say they've been trying to get the trust's attention for years. Maybe the casino controversy, together with the recent inclusion of Hunterstown within the American Battlefield Protection Program, are what put Hunterstown on the national preservation radar.

But it's probably too late for Hunterstown. The historic village is certainly worth preserving, but the battlefield itself will disappear in the next few years. A local developer has already received Straban Township approval for a development of about 2,000 homes, some of which will sit on the fields once fought over by blue- and gray-clad horsemen.

But on the other side of Gettysburg, it's not too late to save the Baltimore Pike, which will no doubt feel development pressure when the new visitors center opens near there in 2008.

The restaurants and trinket shops along Steinwehr Avenue that followed the current visitors center have forever obliterated a key portion of the Gettysburg battlefield. No amount of tree removal or historic fence installation can ever recapture the center of the Union line as it appeared in 1863.

Those who truly care about hallowed ground should work to ensure the same thing doesn't happen along the Baltimore Pike.

During the late great casino fight, a common rejoinder on the part of pro-casino folks was to ask the opponents where they were when the Wal-Mart was built, or Gateway Gettysburg, or any of the other projects that bring traffic and asphalt to this national shrine.

This is their chance to show their opposition was more about saving the battlefield than it was about the morality of gambling.

There will be those who insist such development is necessary, that it brings needed jobs and tax revenues. But the recent battle over the casino suggests there are some things more important in the minds of many. And they still have a real fight on their hands."



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Source: Hanover Evening Sun

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