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4. Threat Assessment

From a ranking of the battlefields in terms of acreage, forces engaged, casualties, and fatalities, we turn to an assessment of the threats to each site. In Part Three, the perceived threats to each site were described in some detail. In this section we rank the sites in terms of relative threats and try to provide a sense of the time frame within which preservation activities must proceed. It is a tight schedule for many of the sites, which are in danger of slipping from poor to lost or from fair to poor condition within the next few years. If the current building recession continues, the fate of these sites may be prolonged for a few more years but not indefinitely. Many developers have placed their plans on hold, waiting to see how the market will develop. Land prices have declined somewhat in the high growth zones. Several battlefield parcels have been auctioned off for bankruptcy. In this climate, local governments seem more willing to consider alternative development scenarios, which include preserving battlefield sites in order to strengthen the tourism sector. If economic boom times return, however--and no preservation efforts have occurred in the meantime--then the integrity of many of the Valley's battlefields will decline rapidly, following the downward trend described below.

The assessment of threats to integrity was derived from a combination of factors, primarily the current integrity of the site, the number of landowners, known threats to specific core and study area parcels, current zoning (if any), the rate of population growth, and the amount of recent land use change in the vicinity. The threats assessment is meant to extrapolate from current trends and cannot be expected to foresee ``catastrophic,'' that is, sudden and unexpected change.

In reality, someone could decide tomorrow to build a large residential subdivision in the heart of Piedmont or Cross Keys battlefields, but this would not be likely. Such a subdivision would be outside of Harrisonburg's current building zone and would presumably be unprofitable in the near future. The number of landowners would make a large development more difficult to assemble. The high integrity of both sites would tend to stand up longer against incremental land use change. Agriculture is still strong and viable in the vicinity, allowing farmers to hold on to their land and continue their livelihood. Opequon battlefield, on the other hand, is in poor condition; it is in the heart of Winchester's high growth area; it is zoned for residential development; remaining core parcels are owned by fewer landowners, several of whom have plans for development; and several core parcels have recently been for sale. It is not difficult to predict the imminent loss of this battlefield's remaining resources without an immediate and strenuous effort to preserve them.

Five threat levels were assigned--very high, high, moderate, low, and very low--and these are defined below:

1. Very High: Rapidly changing land use in study area, core parcels immediately threatened, battlefield highly fragmented by large parcels of lost integrity, imminent loss of remaining resources.

2. High: Rapidly changing land use in study area, large core parcels threatened, portions of battlefield already lost, substantial loss of resources within ten years.

3. Moderate: Incremental change of land use in study area, battlefield largely intact with small core parcels lost or threatened, some resource loss within ten years probable.

4. Low: Land use in study area changing slowly, core parcels as yet unthreatened, battlefield intact, some resource loss within ten years possible.

5. Very Low: Land use in study area has not changed, core parcels preserved, battlefield intact, loss of resources within ten years improbable.

Figure 17 summarizes levels of threat for the fifteen battlefields. The threats to three sites --First Winchester, Opequon, and Front Royal-- are considered very high. Threats to four sites --First and Second Kernstown, Second Winchester, and Tom's Brook-- are rated high. New Market, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek and Cool Spring are moderately threatened. Piedmont, Cross Keys, and Port Republic are experiencing low levels of threat, and McDowell, very low.

It can be seen that, in the absence of preservation efforts, the only battlefield that appears entirely secure within the foreseeable future is McDowell. Only McDowell is not significantly threatened by any form of land use change. The principal source of threats for all sites comes from expansion of residential development followed, in declining order of incidence, by commercial, highway, and industrial developments. Residential construction threatens twelve battlefields, commercial development threatens seven, highway construction threatens six, industrial and quarrying development threatens three.


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Creation Date: 3/13/95

Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC