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Battlefield plight gains national attention page 2
Spotsylvania plays big part in National Geographic's April issue on Civil War battlefields succumbing to sprawl

 The Wilderness battlefield in Spotsylvania and Orange counties is vulnerable to development's march, the Civil War Preservation Trust warns. Spotsylvania's Fawn Lake subdivision was built on Civil War sites.
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Date published: 3/17/2005

By RUSTY DENNEN

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"The church is almost invisible now," Hennessy said, and a handsome stone monument across State Route 3 is practically lost in the traffic congestion.

Hennessy said no one--not the community, not the Park Service, not the county--realized what was happening there until it was too late.

In the case of Salem Church, "We failed to act at every step along the way and we all share the responsibility for what has emerged."

The National Geographic story includes a wartime photo of a Union camp juxtaposed with a modern aerial view of tract housing in Spotsylvania and, later, a photo of a newly restored section of the stone wall along Sunken Road in Fredericksburg with a wartime view strewn with debris and bodies.

Over the years, the National Park Service acquired 8,000 acres in four major battlefields and several other related sites here. Organizations such as the Civil War Preservation Trust and Central Virginia Battlefields Trust have also been acquiring significant parcels that come up for sale.

Chancellorsville, Hennessy said, is an example of what can be done.

The CWPT, working with the county and a developer, Tricord Inc., last year purchased 140 acres of privately owned battlefield land that will be preserved.

"That was truly one of the best examples of how to achieve preservation," Hennessy said.

Last month, the CWPT listed all of Spotsylvania on its annual list of the nation's 10 most endangered battlefields.

Four of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought in and around Spotsylvania between December 1862 and May 1864--at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.

The trust says that without quick action, 200,000 acres of important land still in private hands across the nation will be lost to sprawl within the next two decades.

"It's a great honor being recognized by [National Geographic], said Spotsylvania Supervisor Hap Connors. "Again, it's a two-edged sword that highlights the challenges and the opportunities" facing local officials.

The county needs to continue working with both preservationists and developers "to find ways to balance growth with preserving historical lands," he said.

He noted that the county recently enacted a purchase-of-development-rights program and is looking for ways to fund it.

Also, "Preservation pays, not only by increasing land values and design standards," but by bringing in more tourists to historical sites, Connors said.

Connors and Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Hagan attended a Capitol Hill reception yesterday hosted by preservationists and the National Geographic Society.

Jim Campi, a CWPT spokesman, said the story marks the beginning of a joint effort by the trust, National Geographic and the National Park Service to create online resources and maps for visitors to Civil War sites.

"We see this generating tourism while bringing international attention to the plight of Spotsylvania's battlefields, and how [preservation] decisions are being made locally."

To reach RUSTY DENNEN: 540/374-5431 rdennen@freelancestar.com


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