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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
Hap Connors, a preservationist and a Spotsylvania supervisor, said efforts on both sides could be improved.
"We could talk about mistakes of the past, but I'm more interested in moving forward. I see us, the county, as having a huge role in not only preserving these treasures because it's right to do so, but also the economic value to the county," Connors said.
Land-use matters are a double-edged sword for localities which, on one hand, want to preserve historical resources and promote tourism while at the same time encouraging economic development.
"People are not saying stop growth. That's not realistic. They want us to manage it better," Connors said.
He said that neither the Park Service nor the county has done a good job of marketing the battlefields to tourists who come from all over the world to visit.
Additions may be needed in the county's comprehensive plan, Connors said, "that take into consideration the battlefields and how the county is to look in the next 20 years or so. And we have an obligation to bring people to the table, including the Park Service."
Jim Campi, spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust in Washington, said what's happening here is playing out in fast-growing areas around the country.
"A lot of the battles were fought over 19th-century roads and near small towns. Now, in the 21st century, these roads are major arteries and the villages have become cities and that is putting pressure on the parks," Campi said.
Last February, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Chancellorsville as the third-most-endangered battlefield in the country. And the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield was added to a list of 15 sites in danger of being lost to sprawl.
Localities, Campi said, can do a better job of protecting historic areas by retooling zoning ordinances and working with the federal government and with preservation groups.
The creation of historic districts and historic overlays is another tool.
As for land acquisition, Campi said, some innovative ideas have worked elsewhere.
For example, Frederick County puts money into a fund to acquire open space. That is matched by nonprofit groups and by the federal government.
"Of course," Campi conceded, "land values are substantially higher in the Fredericksburg area, so it makes it more difficult to buy land."