National Park Service covers donation box at United Airlines Flight 93 memorial

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Friday, June 8, 2007

On June 7, Mike Svonavec, the owner of the land in Somerset County, Pennsylvania where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001 has a US$10 million price tag for his property which is sought by the group, Families of Flight 93 and the United States National Park Service, (NPS) for building a memorial dedicated to those on the plane. Svonavec also placed a box on the crash site temporary memorial, where visitors can leave a "donation" to pay for his asking price for the land as well as the cost of providing security at the site.

The NPS has covered the donation box with a trash bag and told Svonavec in a letter to remove it by the end of Friday June 8, but Svonavec said that he will not remove the box.

"I have no intentions of removing the box from my property. My only plans are to try to cooperate with the Park Service with regard to the sale of the property," said Svonavec.

Svonavec accused the NPS of trying to take over his property after they placed the bag over the box.

"It's just unbelievable to my mind that that's the direction they would take, taking control of the property like a guest would at your house," added Svonavec.

"The bottom line is we feel the National Park Service can't effectively carry out our mission without exercising the exclusive use and control of the site as provided for in our agreement with the property owners," said Joanne Hanley who is the Superintendent of the memorial.

Although NPS tour guides are telling tourists and others who visit the memorial, they are shocked to learn that the money they donate is going to Svonavec and not the memorial. "They're alarmed that they may have given their money to something that they didn't want to give their money to," said one of the 43 guides who volunteer at the memorial, Donna Glessner.

The land is currently under contract with the NPS and the memorial is allowed to be on the land according to an act of the United States Congress who in 2002 authorized the memorial to be placed on the land.

Currently, the U.S. National Park Service only owns approximately 60 acres of the land. PBS Coals Inc. owns 864 acres of the land and Svonavec owns 273 acres. The entire field is nearly 2,000 acres.

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