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Flight 93 memorial progress slow but steady

Mary Pickels
| Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004

At times, members of the Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission have described the progress of their task as both glacial and aggressive. But plans for a permanent Flight 93 National Memorial are progressing, commission members learned Friday during a quarterly meeting at the National Park Service office in Somerset.

The board is charged with overseeing plans for a memorial that will pay tribute to the 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Flight 93. The plane was hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed in a remote field in Stonycreek Township.

In less than one year, the board is expected to submit to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior a recommendation for a memorial design.

Before that memorial can be built, however, millions of dollars must be raised or donated and thousands of acres of land acquired.

Project manager Jeff Reinbold said yesterday that a general management plan and environmental impact study at the proposed site are following an "incredibly aggressive schedule."

At the same time, he told the commission, studies regarding the wishes of local residents, transportation issues and water resources are all being taken into consideration.

A Penn State study predicted that annual visitation could reach 230,000 within 10 years of the memorial being built. From Memorial Day 2003 to Memorial Day of this year, 150,000 visitors were counted.

Anticipated problems regarding traffic and emergency response vehicle accommodation, Reinbold said, "are solvable."

The availability of potable water, or considering developing new wells or tapping into local public water sources, will have to be considered.

And area residents, Reinbold said, have repeatedly emphasized that they do not want to lose their community's rural character.

"There is a concern that if we don't think about what will happen out there, others may shape it," he said.

Some residents use portions of the reclaimed strip mine area to hunt and ride ATVs.

"We will see if we can find places to accommodate those uses outside the memorial," Reinbold said.

The commission also heard an update regarding the international memorial design competition. The competition was launched on Sept. 11, and a winning design is to be announced on Sept. 11, 2005.

"We are pleased with the response we have received," said Gina Farfour, Flight 93 Task Force design solicitation committee member.

On Thursday, a site visit was conducted for about 30 registered designers. Additional visits are planned in November and December.

"It was wonderful to see ... the mix of people who came," Reinbold said. "They are really excited about the opportunity that is there."

So far, the competition has attracted more than 1,000 registrants.

"We have almost every state," said Helene Fried, a competition consultant, "and over 15 countries. Will the numbers continue to hold• Last Monday, 83 people registered. ... It's quite good."

Registration will close on Dec. 27. Because the commission will not meet again until Jan. 15, 2005, the board approved a motion to conduct a brief future session by telephone, solely to appoint a competition jury.

Also yesterday, task-force fund raising and grants committee head Rick Stafford and members of Ketchum Inc. reviewed the results of the Pittsburgh firm's fund-raising consultation.

The firm conducted information interviews to determine people who might be approached with requests for large philanthropical gifts. It appeared, Stafford said, that private-sector financial support might be in the range of $25 million to $30 million.

"That is all contingent on a properly organized campaign," Stafford said.

A financing source for that campaign remains uncertain.

"What do we need to get to that critical benchmark where contributions begin to come?" Stafford asked. "Or can we find a benefactor?"

Joanne Hanley, Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent, said land acquisition of core properties in the anticipated 1,500-acre site continues, although there have been no closings yet.

"I hope appraisals will be next," she said.

In a related move, the board agreed to form a realty oversight committee to assist the National Park Service with land acquisition, and to recommend placing an NPS realty employee in Somerset for the duration of the project. That person will handle face-to-face contact with landowners and their legal representatives.

Commission Chairman John Reynolds appointed fellow commissioners Ken Nacke, Donna Glessner, Larry Catuzzi, Jerry Spangler and himself to the oversight committee.

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