WASHINGTON – Piscataway National Park in Maryland will receive $1.2 million to protect the historic view from Mount Vernon, officials announced this week.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Kay Powell, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, an educational facility in the park.
“This is a great example of the kinds of steps we need to take to preserve habitats in urban areas,” she said.
Supporters say the federal government will purchase 118 acres next to the park – about three miles across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon – to save the area from threatened development and preserve the land for future generations.
“This action protects and preserves this historic viewshed so future generations can look across the Potomac and see what our founding fathers saw,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Prince George’s County Democrat.
James C. Rees, resident director of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, said because of the size and location of the property, “there was a real possibility of private development.”
Legislation authorizing the purchase of the land was introduced in the House by Hoyer, and in the Senate by Maryland Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes. It became law in October.
But those wishing to keep potential developers at bay had to wait for the Interior Department to find money to fund the authorization.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt promised in October to comb the 1995 budget after touring the park with Hoyer and other supporters.
“I had just about decided it wouldn’t happen,” said Belva Jensen, 67, a 32-year resident of the Moyaone Reserve, a scenic easement area of the park. “I can’t image if anything would have happened to the integrity of the park.”
The $1.2 million became available when an acquisition of property within the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama cost less than estimated.
Supporters originally targeted 163 acres at the Piscataway park for purchase.
But negotiations are still on-going for 45 acres held in private ownership, said Lesley Kane, associate director of federal affairs for the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit group involved in the deal.
An initial Interior Department cost estimate last year showed the $1.2 million will pay for the other 118 acres.
Officials hope the cost estimate holds when the land is appraised.
“If it doesn’t,” said Joseph Cook, a department realty specialist, “we’re in trouble. It’s not a blank check we’re getting.” -30-