Opposition to a proposed casino 1/2 mile from the Gettysburg NMP
The Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association: The Slow Decline
ounded in 1959, the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association was once a force in protecting the sanctified nature of the nation’s largest Civil War battlefield.
However, in recent years the organization has veered off-track and has slowly faded into relative obscurity. The latest statement only underscores their dramatic decline into the fringe of those concerned about Gettysburg’s future. One wonders what General Eisenhower, a former GBPA board member, would have to say about their latest absurd position on the proposed casino.
In September 2006 the Civil War Courier investigated the origins of the GBPA’s loss of credibility.
The Courier noted that,
It was in 1999 when the GBPA began to change dramatically.
It was then that the administrative officers accepted $100,000 from a developer to not oppose site development of an historic property known as Camp Letterman during the Civil War.
There was a written legal agreement between the developer and the GBPA that stated, “the Association, through any of its officers and directors, shall not object, oppose, publicly criticize or otherwise attempt to prevent or delay Caldwell Development from proceeding with the pending site development.”
Neither the membership nor the public knew of this. Indeed the letter between the
attorneys involved stated that this “is being given to you on a confidential basis to be shared only with those officers of the Association at this time who are instrumental in entering into such arrangement.”
The investigative piece by the Courier further explained that in 2005 the GBPA,
Initiated a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the developer who has land adjacent to the Daniel Lady Farm on Route 116. With the promise of “no adverse actions” towards the development of the George Wolf Farm, the GBPA would receive a narrow strip of land equal to the 10-foot setback along a common boundary. This boundary is 2,000 feet long and the total amount of land to be set aside for a historic interpretive trail would be less than one-half acre. A pittance compared to the over 80-acres due to be developed. Additionally, the developer promised to give to the GBPA all of the stones from the foundation of the Wolf farmhouse the GBPA wanted in order to complete some project on the Daniel Lady Farm.
This too, is a meager amount, hardly enough to make a pick-up truck’s load. The loss of this land, like most in the vicinity of the town of Gettysburg, would be a tragedy.
This land was the site of the encampment of the Louisiana Brigade of Johnson’s Division. It also contains, besides the farm buildings, possible entrenchments dug by those troops for defensive positions. This is precisely the type of endangered battlefield the GBPA originally was created to protect and preserve. [emphasis added].
The organization further sullied its once great reputation by entering into the first casino proposal in 2006. President Kathi Shue testified FOR the casino in 2006 at the Pa Gaming Control board hearing for the entire 10-minute time slot allotted to the GBPA, then later said she was ”misquoted” and that her organization was neutral.
During that fight the Courier noted that,
The president [went] on record in the media stating the GBPA is not opposed to the construction of the proposed casino project at Gettysburg. No vote was taken by the board, or membership, giving the president the mandate of declaring such to the media. The GBPA has received thousands of dollars in support from the casino’s Chief Executive Officer [David LeVan] and affiliated organizations for its restoration efforts.
Regrettably, this same Casino investor, David LeVan, is behind the latest proposal to turn hallowed ground into a slots parlor and gaming facility, leading many to wonder if his contributions to the GBPA influenced their latest stunt.
All of this controversy and scandal has led many members to leave the organization over the years. This situation was only worsened by the latest statement endorsing the casino which caused a rash of statements in the blogosphere condemning the now less than credible organization. Some of those statements are provided below.
What former GBPA President (1990-2001) Dr. Walt Powell has to say:
Dr. Walt Powell: I am very sorry to learn that the GBPA has endorsed the casino–but not surprised, as the current Board seems so disposed. I have to wonder if they made any effort to poll the membership?
The organization accomplished some great things in the past, including, of course, support for the expansion of the boundaries of GNMP, the purchase of hundreds of acres (including the Daniel Lady Farm)…
But I’m not sure many people can point to much of what the GBPA does now, and in the future they may be more likely remembered as one of the few Civil War organizations that endorsed the casino. I, for one, don’t think that is a legacy to be proud of.
What former members have to say:
Cavalry historian Eric Wittenberg: Once upon a time, the Gettysburg Battlefield Protection Association really stood for battlefield preservation. It fought long and hard against the loss of the railroad cut on the first day’s battlefield –- I even offered my professional services to help in that fight as a young lawyer –- and it saved the Daniel Lady Farm, which although little fighting took place there, was an important spot linking the Benner’s Hill area to the Culp’s Hill sector of the battlefield. The organization did great work then.
That, however, was then. This is now. And now, the GBPA has sold its soul to the devil by coming out in favor of the casino proposal.
Historian J.D. Petruzzi: I regret the money I’ve given the organization in the past, the living history events I’ve participated in for the GBPA at the Lady Farm, and all other support I’ve given it over the years. They have indeed saved a great deal of land for the battlefield, but such a galactic mistake of this serves to completely erase all of that goodwill.
I hope everyone withdraws their support for this organization, and that reenactors/living historians stop taking part in events for them. Their support of this casino is a slap in the face to all who treasure historical gems like Gettysburg.
The GBPA needs to do the right thing and dissolve. They have betrayed history, the veterans, and all of us who treasure our past. Let other true preservation groups take over the mantle of protecting Gettysburg.
Jennifer Nash: They have betrayed history and betrayed the memory of the men who fought and died at Gettysburg. Sold their souls to the devil for a few pieces of silver. They should disband immediately.
Ultimately, if the GBPA is to regain its proud place in protecting Gettysburg’s historic resources it cannot continue to endorse projects that will irrevocably damage the character and nature of the area.
Endorsing a casino ½ mile from the National Park because it’s supposedly “well south” of the battlefield and claiming its necessary to preserve the Daniel Lady farm (also not technically within the boundaries of the park) in the same breath is unusual, hypercritical, and unprofessional in the extreme. You simply cannot have it both ways.
The members have spoken; Gettysburg has spoken: The GBPA needs to change its less-than credible ways or expect to become the pariah of preservation.