Dear Michael D. Eisner:
You probably never expected such tumult when your folks at Walt Disney Co. dreamed up a historical theme park for Northern Virginia's Piedmont: Congressmen introducing resolutions denouncing the plan. Sign-toting protesters in Washington mocking you as "the Lyin' King." The Smithsonian Institution (pro) pitted against the National Trust for Historic Preservation (con) over the idea.
Hey, even the chairman of a corporate behemoth needs some sympathy now and then. You told editors at the Washington Post you thought you'd be hoisted on the region's shoulders for bringing Disney magic to the Mid-Atlantic. Instead, Disney's America has metamorphosed into a national referendum on overdevelopment and Civil War battlefield desecration. Far from being a local land-use matter, your plan has generated TV monologue jokes and hand-wringing from politicians whose districts are thousands of miles away.
You said the opposition has only fortified your resolve to build in Haymarket, Va., 35 miles west of Washington and a few miles from where the Battles of Bull Run were fought in the 1860s. We're aware that Gov. George Allen has backed you to the hilt, and the Virginia legislature has anted up millions for road improvements. But in case anything else goes awry, why not consider Maryland?
You get all the benefits of the proposed site, plus a few more. Take the old Bainbridge Naval Training Station in Cecil County as a possible location. It's off Interstate 95. It's less than an hour from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It's closer to the Northeast megalopolis: Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia (only an hour north). Maryland's far enough away that those Northeast vacationers will still use your hotels, yet near enough to reap the benefits of the historic monuments of D.C., not to mention tradition-rich Baltimore and the Antietam and Gettysburg, Pa., battlefields. (And don't worry, they're far enough away that no one will squawk.)
We don't want to get into a civil war with Virginia. Lord knows we have enough battles raging over jurisdictions stealing one another's sports teams. Besides, Virginia and Maryland have been cooperating on some tourism ventures since visitors to one state often visit the other. But if you tire of being cast a villain in a Disney classic, try Maryland. It fits like a glass slipper.
Marylanders for Mickey and Minnie