- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

Arlington County officials today will begin an aggressive campaign to prevent Congress from expanding Arlington National Cemetery, a plan they call devastating to the surrounding community and its history.
The proposal, part of the defense authorization bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee last month, would allow the federally run cemetery to expand its burial grounds to two parcels of federal land. One parcel abuts Arlington House, which was the home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; the other surrounds the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.
"This is devastating," County Manager Ron Carlee said.
Members of the county board said yesterday they will start calling and e-mailing constituents to let them know about the issue and try to meet with members of Congress to urge them to consider the property's historical significance before taking any action.
County board Chairman Jay Fisette Jr., a Democrat, said he will send a letter early this week to members of the Northern Virginia delegation and members of the House Armed Services Committee regarding the historical significance of the land surrounding Arlington House and suggesting they discuss ideas with local jurisdictions.
Mr. Fisette said yesterday Congress should take the issue through a public process.
"What's the rush?" asked Mr. Fisette, whose grandparents are buried at the cemetery. "Why not develop a permanent plan rather than just a temporary one? This is only a Band-Aid for an issue that will come back up in the future."
According to a copy of the bill, some 15 acres of land east of the Netherlands Carillon and the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial would be opened for burials. A plot of land, located some 50 feet away from Sherman Drive, where the Arlington House stands, and Ord & Weitzel Drive, also would be open for burials, the bill indicates. The cemetery currently occupies 612 acres.
Under the proposal, the land would be transferred from the National Park Service, which oversees the cemetery, to the Department of Defense.
Board members said the land surrounding Arlington House was part of Freedmen's Village, the first community of freed slaves that existed in the late 1800s. An American Indian burial site may be on the grounds as well, they said.
"What we really want is for Congress to consider the environmental uses of the property and historical aspects of it," said board member Barbara A. Favola, a Democrat. "But we know it's going to be an uphill battle for us. Most of Congress views it as a federal issue and not a local issue."
The House is expected to take up the proposal sometime this week.
What would the expansion mean for nearby residents? Activities such as the Marine Corps Marathon, concerts and fireworks viewing on the Fourth of July probably would have to end, said Audrey Calhoun, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
"We are very opposed to [the plan]," said Ms. Calhoun, who also is a Park Service official.
Board members said yesterday they did not know about the proposal until late Friday, when a constituent affiliated with U.S. Rep. James P. Moran's office informed them of the news. The next morning, the county board members discussed the issue at their scheduled meeting.
Mr. Moran, a Virginia Democrat whose district includes Arlington, is leading the opposition to the expansion. "This is wrong," Mr. Moran said. "This has got to be stopped. I think it's callous. I think they're acting out of ignorance of the historical importance of this site."
Other Arlington County residents agree.
Margaret Lampe, chairman of the Arlington County's Bicentennial Celebration Task Force, said she is "terribly" concerned about the environmental effects the expansion would have on Arlington House, also called Custis-Lee Mansion.
Mrs. Lampe's task force has spent several years trying to raise money to restore the historical landmark.
"We're very distressed about this," Mrs. Lampe said yesterday. "The land is for the living. There's a lot of national cemeteries out there. I don't want them to take all of Arlington County. The cemetery is going to have to close sometime."
mThis article is based in part on wire service reports.


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