Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia
- DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023
- TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
- LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA
Sponsored by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, the French & Indian War Foundation, and Captain Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment.
Maryland Lawmakers Push to Designate the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area
WASHINGTON – The Chesapeake Bay could see a boost in status under legislation introduced this summer to designate the region as a National Recreation Area.
Sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act would allow the National Park Service to bring into its network sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which covers over 60,000 square miles across six states and Washington, D.C. Sites would be included either through donations or purchases, but the new designation would not affect the rights of other property owners along the watershed.
“We know that the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and it’s a global treasure,” Van Hollen said in an interview with Capital News Service. “We believe that by including this national treasure within the National Park Service system, we will ensure that it is protected in the future.”
Efforts to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area date back to the 2000s, when a study called for the bay to become a unit of the National Park Service. This year’s legislation also comes amid attempts to mitigate the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and efforts to highlight lesser-known parts of bay history, including the contributions of Native Americans and Black watermen to the ecosystem and economy.
The bill was created through a “unique process,” Van Hollen said. In 2021, in a practice uncommon among most lawmakers, he and Sarbanes created a working group to solicit feedback on what the legislation should look like.
The bill is currently in committee, but Van Hollen said a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is “determined to get it over the finish line” by the end of this congressional session.
Currently, the park service administers certain sites in the watershed, including those designated as national monument units. The Chesapeake Gateways program, established through federal legislation in 1998, allows the park service to partner with and provide assistance to local and regional organizations involved in the bay.
But lawmakers are calling for the park service to play a larger and more administrative role, especially as they strive to tell previously untold stories about the watershed’s inhabitants.
“Right now, there’s no entity whose mission is to help tell the stories of the Chesapeake Bay,” Van Hollen said. “If you look at the Chesapeake Bay, in many ways, its history is a microcosm of our American history… so there are all sorts of stories.”
For Maryland residents like Vincent Leggett, whose families have been involved in those stories for generations as avid fishermen, shipbuilders, and dockworkers, the bill offers the promise of highlighting history that’s previously been passed over.
Leggett is a member of Blacks of the Chesapeake — an organization that aims to highlight Black history in the watershed — which was part of the working group for the bill.
“African Americans, I feel, were the backbone to the maritime and seafood industries here in the Chesapeake Bay region, but our stories were not elevated, nor were they exposed through our own voices,” Leggett said.
Leggett hopes that expanding the reach of the park service in the region will also draw these populations into bay conservation. Only 7% of the state’s bay shoreline is publicly accessible, he said, causing a “sense of alienation” for people of color in the region who can’t get involved in cleanup efforts.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the main entity responsible for the conservation and restoration of the bay, there are 1,296 public access points to the body of water across its six watershed states and Washington, D.C.
The bill, if passed, would authorize the park service to administer additional landmarks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — a step Van Hollen said would further improve public access to the bay.
Blacks of the Chesapeake has worked with state and federal lawmakers in Maryland on several projects along the bay, Leggett said, including planning a heritage park at the historically-Black Elktonia Beach in Annapolis and ensuring that Black history is highlighted at Whitehall Manor, which was built by enslaved individuals. Some of these sites, if acquired by the park service, could become highlights of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area.
The bill’s sponsors also touted the legislation as an opportunity to create jobs and enhance Maryland’s economy.
“By designating a unified National Recreation Area for the Chesapeake Bay, this legislation seeks to elevate the regional stories that shaped our nation’s history, promote the spirit of stewardship, improve public access, and spur economic growth across the bay region,” Sarbanes said in an e-mail to CNS.
The lawmakers have projected that turning the watershed into a park service unit will boost tourism in the region, augmenting its already major role in the Bay states’ economies. In Maryland, recreational boating generates an average of $2.03 billion and 32,025 jobs each year, and wildlife-watching excursions generate over $600 million a year, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Leggett said that the bill is an opportunity to foster these industries while increasing awareness of the bay’s integral role in the region.
“I think that by bringing more attention to the Chesapeake Bay… it just generates so many millions of dollars and employment opportunities and tourism,” he said. “I think that as we endeavor to improve the water quality of the bay, that is going to enhance the fisheries, it is going to enhance heritage tourism and all of the related businesses that surround it.”
By SHIFRA DAYAK
Capital News Service
In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box
With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.
As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.
As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.
Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.
Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.
Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”
Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.
Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.
If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.
Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.
William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.
Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.
Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.
Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”
On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.
And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.
Rabies Outbreak Detected in Front Royal’s Feline Population
Warren County Health Department Issues Directives on Containment and Prevention.
A recent incident in the Oregon Hollow Road area of Warren County has sounded the alarm bells for local pet owners and animal enthusiasts. A feline displaying signs of rabies infection was detected, prompting immediate action by the Warren County Animal Control Deputies.
On September 14, 2023, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office attended to an animal control call involving a seemingly ill feline. The on-scene Animal Control Officer found a confined cat among several others on the property. The complainant highlighted a troubling trend: people frequently desert cats in the area.
The caged feline’s behavior raised suspicions of a potential rabies infection. This suspicion was later echoed by a local veterinary clinic, where the cat was taken for a professional opinion. The unfortunate confirmation led to the feline’s humane euthanization, and its samples were sent to the Warren County Health Department for further testing.
By September 20, the grim results were in. The Warren County Animal Control Officer received confirmation that the feline was indeed infected with rabies. Given the severity and potential spread of this disease, the Warren County Health Department acted promptly. They issued a directive that, for public safety reasons, all remaining cats on the property would be trapped and humanely euthanized.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has since amplified its efforts to spread awareness. Residents are urged to update their pets’ rabies vaccinations and to exercise caution, especially around unfamiliar animals that may exhibit erratic or unusual behavior.
Rabies, a potentially fatal disease, poses a severe threat to both animals and humans. The quick response by Warren County Animal Control highlights the significance of early detection and intervention. As the county grapples with this challenge, collaboration and vigilance among residents will be paramount. Warren County’s residents are encouraged to stay informed, taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and that of their beloved pets.
Michael S. Williams Receives Prestigious 2023 Community Builder Award
Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146 Honors a Community Pillar.
In a heartwarming ceremony, Michael S. Williams was recently presented with the 2023 Community Builder Award. Acknowledging his unparalleled contributions to the betterment of the community and his dedication to nurturing young minds, Williams’s recognition came as a testament to his tireless efforts.
Jennifer Knox, Principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, initiated the event, expressing her gratitude for the presence of all attendees, specifically highlighting the Early Act Program. “It’s evident just how much you all cherish the moments you spend at the school with Mr. Williams,” she stated, reflecting on the evident warmth and respect the community holds for him. Knox, not missing a beat to praise the initiative, shared her appreciation of the program during a recent district board meeting, emphasizing the positive impacts it has brought about.
The highlight of the event was the words from Will Bryan of the Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146. Taking a jovial moment to impersonate Michael, Bryan, amid laughter and playful banter about misplaced glasses, transitioned to the reason for the gathering. Addressing the young attendees, he sought acknowledgment for the deep respect and appreciation the community holds for Williams. By the sea of raised hands, it was evident Michael was indeed a beloved figure.
The Community Builder Award, Bryan announced, was being presented to Michael Shawn Williams for his “outstanding service to the community.” The accolade didn’t just commend his services but recognized the profound impacts of his efforts, making the community a more vibrant, cohesive space for everyone. The gesture, from Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146, underscored the value of individuals like Williams in the broader fabric of the community.
Closing his tribute, Bryan added a personal note, reflecting the sentiments of many present. “We appreciate you,” he began, his voice holding a mixture of gratitude and admiration, “I am a better man because I’m around you.”
Michael S. Williams’s receipt of the 2023 Community Builder Award was more than just a ceremonial recognition. It was a moment of collective gratitude from a community that has benefited from his unwavering dedication and service. In the words and gestures of both young and old, one thing was clear: Michael S. Williams’s impact resonates deeply within the hearts of many.
Nicole Wanzer’s Fresh Perspective for North River District
Write-in Candidate Aims to Bring Change and Community Focus.
In a recent in the Royal Examiner’s studio, Nicole Wanzer shared her perspective and reasons for running as a write-in candidate for the North River District’s Board of Supervisors. Going up against Rich Jamieson, who was initially running unopposed, Wanzer speaks passionately about her desire to serve her community.
Wanzer’s decision to enter the race wasn’t driven by personal ambitions but by the numerous conversations she had with her neighbors. She emphasized the importance of competition in elections and believed everyone should work hard to earn their position.
Her love for the community is evident. She speaks of its beauty, safety, and the close-knit nature of its residents. However, she also believes there’s always room for improvement. Her aim is to help those in need, especially considering the evolving nature of the district, with newer residents coming in with more financial power.
Wanzer didn’t shy away from discussing broader issues either. She highlighted ongoing concerns like the library dispute and the need for more transparency, especially after recent scandals surrounding funds. A significant challenge she identified was the influx of wealthier residents from Northern Virginia, leading to a potential imbalance in the housing market and straining the original inhabitants of Warren County.
The essence of her campaign is to focus on local needs, avoiding getting sidetracked by national disputes and media narratives. Wanzer emphasized the importance of unity and understanding, as she believes true governance can only happen from the middle ground, as echoed by former leaders like Reagan. She hopes to work towards a more unified, service-driven approach to public service.
Nicole Wanzer offers a refreshing perspective for the North River District. Grounded in community values, she seeks to ensure the well-being of all residents, balancing the needs of the long-standing community members with the aspirations of newcomers. As she ventures into the political arena, Wanzer hopes to be a voice of reason, understanding, and service.
A Tale of Two Visions: Butler’s Achievements vs. Cline’s Commitments
Butler and Cline: Two Distinct Visions for a Safer Warren County.
In a riveting forum, Warren County citizens gathered to hear from two stalwart contenders, Mark Butler and Crystal Cline, both vying for the coveted position of Warren County Sheriff. With a term lasting four years, the stakes are high, and the commitment deeper.
Crystal Cline, having served the Front Royal Police Department for over two decades, began with a heartfelt thank-you to the chamber for facilitating the forum and the community for their presence. She reminisced about her deep roots in Warren County, highlighting her involvement ranging from the Mom’s Club to coaching the traveling volleyball team. Cline’s main thrust was the need to restore leadership and integrity to the role of sheriff. She voiced concerns over the dissolution of the Animal Control Division and the pressing need for dedicated School Resource Officers (SROs). Most poignantly, she discussed the department’s retention issue and the imperative of a full staff. Addressing Sheriff Butler’s claim about a massive drug bust, Cline firmly stated that such an incident hadn’t transpired in Warren County and stressed the significance of integrity in leadership.
On the flip side, Sheriff Mark Butler, the incumbent, recounted the tumultuous period four years ago when Warren County grappled with a major scandal. He emphasized the changes he had championed during his tenure, such as attaining the accreditation that was lost in 2019, introducing community policing, and enhancing safety – all while lessening the taxpayer’s burden. One of his crowning achievements, he mentioned, was the confiscation of 77,000 fentanyl pills last year, which he tied to a broader narrative on the devastating drug epidemic. Butler concluded by affirming the commitment of his department to the Constitution and the rights it guarantees to the citizens.
As November 7th approaches, the air in Warren County is thick with anticipation. With two distinctly passionate perspectives on the table, the choice voters make will significantly shape the future of the county’s law enforcement.