Issue 3: Spring 2000 page 1
The Superintendent's Letter
Our energies have been pouring into creating the new Visitor Center at Tredegar, now scheduled to open June 17th, with a special address at 1:00 p.m. by the National Park Service Director, Bob Stanton. Please join us on June 17 and consult our website for up to date information on Tredegar as well as other park scheduled events.
Ever mindful, however, of the supreme value of the battlefield lands themselves, we are also actively exploring opportunities to preserve the remains of the battlefields near Richmond. The prohibition on using federal funds to buy land for Richmond National Battlefield Park is still in effect, requiring us to rely on private sector and state and local government efforts. Recently a private individual initiated a complex plan for preserving land associated with the Totopotomoy Creek battle along with a development plan for less historically significant acreage. The land to be preserved is in three different ownership parcels and includes impressive earthworks from the May 1864 battle and the remarkable historic Shelton home known as Rural Plains, significant for its architecture as well as its witness to key events. The county declined to consider zoning changes that would have made that particular preservation/development arrangement possible, although there were no comments hostile to the preservation aspect of the plan. I was pleased to hear the reasoning from the developer's lawyer that the location of commercial zoning can be shifted on a plan but the heart of a battlefield cannot be relocated, and I understand his rationale that private preservation must find a way to pay for itself. I mention this example not that I want to second guess the county's decision necessarily, but rather that I do want to applaud and encourage this kind of creative thinking that is necessary in lieu of using government funds to buy historic property. The more people who understand that battlefields are sacred, can be an amenity to the local community as well as a national icon, and can assist economic development as well, the more battlefields will be preserved. Battlefields in the National Park System hold their value in perpetuity; they are not "class A" space for a mere 10, 20, or even 50 years, which is longer that I have seen any county plans project. There are many of you who do believe in preservation of our country's heritage in all its diversity, and I thank you for your support of the Richmond battlefields.
Did You Know?
The battle of Gaines' Mill outside of Richmond, Virginia, was the first Civil War battle where both sides got help from above--in the form of observation balloons.