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Lawmakers Start Campaign To Stop Virginia Theme Park

June 16, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Texas congressman introduced a resolution Thursday to put Congress on record against a proposed Walt Disney theme park in northern Virginia, saying the park would devastate one of the nation’s most important historical sites.

The $650 million history-based theme park, said Democratic Rep. Mike Andrews, ″is based on faulty scorched-earth thinking, that we must somehow destroy our history and landscapes in order to preserve them.″

The park is to be located in Haymarket, Va., 35 miles west of downtown Washington and five miles from Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the two battles of Bull Run during the Civil War.

Andrews said he had 15 co-sponsors for the resolution.

Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said the project was ″an onslaught on these sacred grounds.″ The intentions of Disney may be good, he said, but ″this is trivializing American history.″

He asked how much American young people had learned about the history of indigenous Americans by visiting Frontierland at Disneyland.

Numerous Civil War historians and history groups have also come out against the theme park. Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said there is ″probably no area of this country that has such history associated with it.″

The Senate is to hold hearings next week on the environmental impact the theme park, and its accompanying urban sprawl, could have on northern Virginia’s Piedmont region.

Henry Merkli, a Haymarket resident who attended the Andrews news conference to show his support for Disney, said he resented ″that someone from Texas can tell me what to do with my property.″ Merkli, who said he owns 317 acres in the rural community, said 80 percent of Haymarket’s residents support the Disney park, which is expected to generate 19,000 jobs.

Virginia Gov. George Allen backs the theme park, and the state legislature approved $160 million in aid for it.

Disney chairman Michael Eisner, in an interview this week with The Washington Post, said he was shocked by the opposition but had no intention of altering plans to build the park.

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