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Fighting for piece of history page 2
Area battlefields brace for encroaching growth and development

 Preservation of farmland surrounding Elwood mansion in the Wilderness battlefield is a National Park Service priority.

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Date published: 1/4/2004



And, Smith said, he'd like to see more coordination and cooperation among interested parties.

"We would like to do some joint planningto come up with a common vision of the future so it doesn't get us into an us-against-them situation. Nobody gains from that."

Smith sees the Park Service's role as educator to local officials and developers. "We can serve as advisers about what's critical and what's not" when it comes to assessing the historical value of land outside the park boundary. "Some areas are not as critical as other areas, and we have the information and the historians to help people make better choices."

Smith sees his office working more with county officials to flag such areas for inclusion in comprehensive plans and "to help them understand where the greatest impacts [of development] happen and how they can help to maintain the battlefields."

At each battlefield here, subdivisions back up to park boundaries.

A planned development off State Route 208 behind the McGee farm probably will be visible to visitors to the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield's Bloody Angle, where Union and Confederate troops clashed in brutal hand-to-hand combat in May 1864.

Over the past 20 years, the battlefield park has grown from 5,000 acres to roughly 8,000 acres, as congressional leaders have worked to save endangered Civil War sites. The boundaries can be adjusted only by Congress.

"Unfortunately, the battles did not stay neatly within the park boundary," Smith noted.

When the last park management plan was drawn up, "these pressures were just beginning," Smith said. Consequently, the Park Service has moved to acquire as much as possible of the most significant sites. Thousands of acres of important, but less historically significant, land borders the park's present boundaries.

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