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'Manassas Maulers'

July 29, 1988

Your editorial "Manassas Maulers" is off the mark (July 12). The Interior Department and the National Park Service have been and will continue to protect America's national parks and historic sites.

The key issue to protecting Manassas National Battlefield Park is the closing of the two highways within the park so that they can be returned to their condition at the time of the Civil War and so that visitors to the battlefield can enjoy a "park" experience, not a "parking" experience.

If present traffic trends continue, these highways will become even more filled with fast-moving cars, buses and trucks, even if Congress buys the land outside the park. The National Park Service proposal to close these highways and reroute them around the park, more than any other action, will assure future visitors a better national park than today because Manassas battlefield will be more as it was in the 1860s.

We cannot solve the growing traffic problem by buying the acres next to the park. On the surface, that may seem like a simple and permanent solution to the problem. However, like the small boy given the word "banana" in the spelling bee, it is easy enough to start, but hard to know when to stop.

Sure, Congress can spend the American taxpayers' money to buy the land in question. Price estimates on the 600 acres currently in question range as high as $70 million. So what happens then? The mall proposal could move a quarter or half mile down the road. Does Congress propose that taxpayers foot the bill to buy that land too? How far do we go? Do we spend a billion dollars to protect one battlefield. Two billion?

DONALD P. HODEL

Interior Secretary

Washington, D.C.

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