WASHINGTON – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett criticized the National Park Service for “inconsistent, confusing and disjointed” land use permit policies during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
Bartlett, R-Frederick, and Alfred Kazmierczak, 67, of Hagerstown, told a Resources Committee panel that residents leasing property along the C & O Canal National Historical Park in Hagerstown are concerned they will be forced from their homes.
They said the National Park Service is sending residents mixed signals.
Kazmierczak said the federal government bought his land in the early 1970s to create the national park and rejuvenate the canal area, but gave him a permit allowing him to continue living in his house.
The 25-year permit expires in the year 2000, Kazmierczak said.
Others in the area were given similar permits for 20-25 years, he said.
All of the permits will expire within the next five years, Bartlett said.
Kazmierczak said the National Park Service recently told him it would not extend his lease, “because they say they don’t have the authority.”
Bartlett asked the committee to determine how much authority the park service has, and whether it has used that authority evenly across the nation.
“The National Park Service should not be permitted to hide behind the excuse that they have no authority when the real reason for not acting is that the National Park Service is unwilling to grant relief in any case, no matter how compelling,” Bartlett said.
The National Park Service says that the original agreements did not establish any guidelines for extensions.
Congress passed the act creating the park in 1971 with the idea that the property owners’ occupancy rights would “ultimately expire and the area would then be available for public use and enjoyment,” said Dennis Galvin, associate director of professional services for the park service.
Bartlett said he is worried that when the permits run out, the occupants will be forced off the land and their homes will be destroyed.
Kazmierczak also criticized the park service for being inconsistent. He said it is forcing some residents to leave, while allowing others to stay.
While Stupak’s bill does not deal with the Maryland area, it is important to Bartlett and residents of the canal area because it may provide a model for future legislation, said Lisa Lyons- Wright, spokeswoman for Bartlett.
“It’s important for those involved to be able to network and share their experiences with the park service,” Lyons-Wright said.
Blaine Weaver, 62, of Hagerstown, also came to Tuesday’s hearing to support Bartlett’s efforts. “We have been working for two years now, through congressman Bartlett, to help correct the inconsistencies that surround the canal area,” he said. “This was a positive step.” -30-