Legislation would add 45 acres, train station to Gettysburg park

It's Casey's third attempt at additions

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Like any determined military general, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is trying, for a third time, for a victory in adding to the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Mr. Casey, D-Pa., is seeking to add the Gettysburg train station and 45 acres where cavalry battled to the 5,000-acre park. The train station, restored in 2006 at a cost of $2.8 million, is an 1856 brick building that became a makeshift hospital for the wounded soldiers during the decisive Civil War conflict. It served as a way station for dead veterans' coffins being shipped home for burial. On the third and final day of the battle, wounded soldiers climbed into the station's bell tower to watch cannons exploding over Pickett's Charge.

On Thursday, Mr. Casey, along with Pennsylvania's Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, introduced legislation to include the station and the 45 acres within the boundaries of the park. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania's Republican congressman from its 4th District, introduced companion legislation in the House.

Mr. Casey is urging Congress to pass the legislation before Nov. 19, the date in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln arrived and gave the famous two-minute speech that dedicated the Soldiers' National Cemetery.

"This is the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, so it's very significant this year," said Alex Miller, a spokeswoman for Mr. Casey.

"Sen. Casey has also invited President [Barack] Obama to be the keynote speaker at the November event for the Gettysburg Address anniversary. The president has yet to respond either way, but the event is several months away," Ms. Miller added.

The bill was never voted on by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. But the committee's new chair is Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.

Joanne Hanley, president of the Gettysburg Foundation, said the train station is "where President Lincoln began and departed his 24-hour seminal trip to Gettysburg. Those 24 hours, I think, created a narrative that still resonates and inspires people today. That narrative is the Gettysburg Address."

The foundation, she said, wants to enhance visitors' experience of Lincoln in Gettysburg by starting at the station and moving to the David Wills house where the president spent the night. The next day, he walked a mile to the cemetery, then walked down Baltimore Avenue to the train station.

The David Wills house, Ms. Hanley said, is already operated through a partnership made up of the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation.

Bob Kirby, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, said the addition of 45 acres of land at the base of Big Round Top, at the battlefield's southern edge, is important for several reasons.

"Buffers are important in battlefields. We try to preserve the cultural landscape so you can stand on the battlefield and get a sense of how the topography helped fight or defend in battle. Buffers help us shield the battlefield from intrusive development," Mr. Kirby said, adding that the move would protect Plum Run, a sensitive environmental area.

"We already own and have a museum in the Wills house. There are plans for a museum in the Soldiers' National Cemetery," he said.

Katie Lawhon, a spokeswoman for the park, said the 45-acre tract is owned, "by our nonprofit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation, and they plan to donate that land. They also have made a commitment to acquire the train station and donate the train station to the National Park Service as well."

The Gettysburg Foundation must first purchase the train station from the borough of Gettysburg and then donate it to the National Park Service, Ms. Lawhon said.

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Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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