Virginia Sen. Harry F. Bryd Jr. has announced he will not lift his opposition to the proposed 1,700 acre expansion of the Manassas National Battlefield Park this year, a move that could kill the legislation.
The senator disclosed his intentions in a carefully worded statement that refused to rule out the possibility of a compromise solution next year to the expansion, which is a bitter issue in Prince William County.
Citing an "acrimonious" public hearing on the expansion last week in Manassas, Byrd, who has held the House-passed legislation in committee, said, "It seems unlikely that the legislation would be enacted this year."
Senate staff members said yesterday that Byrd's statement means the legislation is likely to die in a Senate committee.
However, Sen. James G. Abourezk (D-S.D.), chairman of the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, said he would attempt to find enough votes to push the bill through the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The Senate is generally unwilling to approve an action within a state over the opposition of the state's senators under the practice known as senatorial courtesy.
But Abourezk said, "This it not a state issue. This is a national park. There are always factions of local people who oppose a park. You have to deal with that."
Byrd, an independent whose father, as a Democratic senator, was instrumental in the 3,000-acre park's creation, has based his position on the opposition of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
The board, after a bitter public hearing last week, voted to reject any compromise on the legislation and to ask that Byrd and Scott kill the expansion.
Rep. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.), the bill's chief sponsor, said yesterday he will continue to press for the expansion, despite Byrd's position. "Eventually there will have to be legislation that will preserve these historic areas and protect the integrity of park", Harris said.
Prince William Supervisor James Byrd, delighted with Sen. Byrd's statement said, "Let it (the expansion), die in peace and bury it deep . . . As far as I'm concerned I hope it is never brought up again." He said he wanted no compromise in the future and that "probably the majority of my fellow board members feel the same way."
Supervisor Alice Humphries, another opponent of the bill to expand the park, said a compromise next might be worked out. Supervisor Kathleen Seefeldt said, "I am disappointed. I feel that a compromise was within reach this year. It seems to me a waste of time to go through this process again."
Backers of the expansion have argued that it would add historically vital battle sites and protect the existing park from unsuitable development. Opponents said it would take property off county tax roles and damage the rights of residents in or near the park.