HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) â€” A judge says the government can take possession of a 370-foot observation tower near the Gettysburg National Battlefield, allowing its demolition during next month's anniversary of the Civil War battle.
The judge, however, criticized the National Park Service for ``poor taste'' for its plan to allow a private company to demolish the 3-decade-old steel tower in exchange for using a video of the destruction in its promotions. The agency has said the company's offer is expected to save more than $1 million.
U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo issued her ruling Monday in a government lawsuit seeking permission to quickly take control of the privately owned site.
Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., offered to tear down the tower for free but said it could do so only on July 3 because of other projects, according to park service officials. The company said its workers needed most of June to prepare the tower.
The judge allowed the government to take possession of the tower by June 15.
A lawyer for the tower's owner, Thomas Ottenstein of Overview Limited Partnership, said he was disappointed with the ruling but had not yet decided whether to appeal.
The park service laid claim to the tower Dec. 9 and more recently seized title to about six surrounding acres owned by Hans Enggren of New Oxford. The government has set aside $3 million to compensate the owners, an issue the judge will determine later.
July 3 is the 137th anniversary of Pickett's Charge, when 15,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. George Edward Pickett made a desperate and bloody assault on the center of the Union lines along Seminary Ridge during the battle of Gettysburg.
Amid casualties of nearly 60 percent, several hundred rebel troops broke the Northern line but were unable to hold their position. The attack has been called the greatest infantry charge in U.S. history.
Preservationists cheered Monday's ruling.
``We have long regarded this tower as an abomination, something that is totally inappropriate for the battlefield,'' said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
On The Net: Gettysburg National Military Park: http://www.nps.gov/gett
The National Tower at Gettysburg: http://www.gettysburgtower.com