Page 10 Thursday, July 14, 1988 CONCORD (MASS) JOURNAL
Political action is best bet for park plan opponents
By Katherine Croteau
In order to defeat the current proposal for the Minute Man National Historical Park, Concordians must use the political arena.
So says Charles Cushman, executive director and one of the co-founders of the National Inholders Association, which works with citizens to try and keep their land when faced with eminent domain proceedings by governmental bodies.
Citizens "cannot beat it using the legal system. Condemnation is not fair. Condemnation favors the Justice Department and the legal system," said Cushman from his California office.
Cushman, once an insurance executive, knows how the eminent domain process operates first hand because he and the town of WaWona, Calif., successfully fought the National Park several years ago, he said. Cushman organized his community and spurred people into action.
He said the park service got so much publicity from this campaign that they do not even think of using the condemnation process anymore in WaWona.
An inholder, Cushman says, is a person who owns land 'or has an equity interest in a piece that is within a park boundary. Often these boundaries have irregular shapes, and the inholder is the person caught in the middle, he said.
Deluging the town's representatives in the U.S. Senate and House with phone calls and correspondence is one crucial step, he said. But first, Concordians, if they are opposed to the plan, should become highly organized. That way, he said, they will be powerful and not have to work as hard at getting results, Cushman said.
Residents must also convince their senators and congressmen
to ask the National Park Service for an extension on its deadline, for once this happens, a 60- to 90-day extension, is automatic as a courtesy, he said.
From his experience in WaWona and in his association work, Cushman has many horror stories to tell about the way the park service uses condemnation proceedings.
One WaWona resident, after his home burned to the ground, was not allowed to rebuild his house, even though he wanted it exactly the same as before, Cushman said.
An elderly man who needed a larger bathroom was told that he could not construct one even though all the renovations were to take place inside and there would be no exterior changes to the building, he said. The park service told the WaWona man that he could have his bathroom, but only if he turned the house over to the government.
In the years since the association was founded, Cushman and his group have helped people in the Appalachian Mountains, on Cape Cod, on Fire Island, in Maine and in the Valley Forge area. "There are lots of success stories. People can be success-
Condemnation is a "brutal" process which "guts" people, Cushman said, and the park service often uses it to punish people who fight back.
National Park Service officials have said that they will only acquire property on a "willing seller, willing buyer" basis but
Cushman said this phrase disguises a divide and conquer strategy that is used.
The tactics used in land acquisition are reminiscent of those used by the Army Corps of Engineers, because many of those involved in it are former employees of that branch of government, he said.
"We are not talking Smokey the Bear and the good guys here. We are talking a military operation."'
He, said there will be some residents in a neighborhood that will give in right away and others after some negotiation. Then there are a few residents left who are holding out.
This is when the service begins to use condemnation, he said, preying on people who are having economic difficulties, "little old ladies," and those going through divorces.
Cushman said the park service's plan is out of hand. "Do you think that it is going to stop there? Of course it's not."
He said the park service is interested in gradual, constant expansion. Within 20 years, he said he thought the service would want to put a significant portion of Concord under its control.
An action guide and other tools put out by the National Inholder's Association are available to residents. These are available by calling Cushman at (707) 935-1279 or writing him at P.O. Box 588, Sonoma, Calif., 95476.
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