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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
By RUSTY DENNEN
"Our goal was to hold onto key areas," Smith said. In 1998 the Park Service bought 40 acres in the heart of the Chancellorsville battlefield, the site of Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's famous flank attack on Union forces. "It looked like an area that would be quickly developed and was critical to the story" of the battle, Smith said. In May 2002 it purchased 462 acres in Fawn Lake owned by NTS/Virginia Development Co. to add to the Wilderness battlefield in western Spotsylvania. The $6.1 million purchase was the largest in that park's history.
"Both Chancellorsville and Wilderness are vulnerable, and we hope that as that area develops that we can work with developers" to mitigate the impact on the park, Smith said.
If the Outer Connector around Fredericksburg is ever built, it would require road-widening in that area, and bring with it more development.
The top priority for new acquisitions is at Ellwood on the Wilderness battlefield. Smith said the Park Service would like to buy several parcels around the site where Stonewall Jackson's right arm, amputated in a field hospital there after his wounding, is buried near the Spotsylvania-Orange county line.
At Spotsylvania Court House, "We own the core of the battlefield. People can get a real sense of what it was like during the battle. There's a certain solitude that can be found there," Smith said.
There is some concern that a bypass planned around the courthouse area could spawn development that would affect the park.
The Park Service, Smith said, continues to buy small, privately owned tracts within the battlefields when it can, but there is little federal money available for purchases.'Special responsibility'
The federal government cannot do it alone, Smith said.
The Ashley-Orrock tract is a good example of the fact that important land not within the park boundaries is in play.
"There's not a question of if it's going to be developed, but how to develop it sensitively to respect the history of the land, and that is a special responsibility of local government," Smith said.
"These battlefields are national resources that belong to everybody, but the local area has special responsibility for stewardship. What local government does has a very big impact on the battlefields and what happens around them," he said.