Access Management: Private Roads and Driveways Across Park Land
Richmond National Battlefield Park's rural agricultural surroundings are changing to residential and commercial development, which sometimes desires access to park maintained roadways across park land. It is the position of the National Park Service to recognize all legally deeded access but not to grant new access unless there are mitigating circumstances and no net loss to the park. Most access roads, and related local traffic, have a negative impact on the visitor experience, and many have disturbed or destroyed earthworks and other historic resources.
Since 1996, the park has been assessing the extent of potential legal accesses, i.e., how many unbuilt accesses (driveways, etc.) exist according to reservations found in the deeds that were used to create the park. The park's staff has begun examining park deeds for any references to reserved or implied access rights in order to identify existing legal accesses, accesses that appear to be illegal, and accesses that are not built. The park has prepared a draft Access Management Policy, on which we invite your comments.
The park has been responding to access questions on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of the Northeast Region's Solicitor's Office, with an average of 10 requests per year. The process of performing an "Access Study" can take between three weeks and six months depending on the complexity of the issues. An access study requires the researching of deeds and associated documents often dating back to the mid-1800's.
A legal access gives an adjacent land owner the ability to build, use, and maintain a passage across park land and is a "deeded right." This access does not constitute ownership of the property on which it is built but rather the right to cross the land. The land is still owned by the United States.
Legal accesses are restricted to their deeded width, identified location (when available) and surface and construction compatibility with the park setting. All required access maintenance, i.e. grading, culvert placement and/or repair, snow removal, etc. is done by the access user at her/his expense according to park specifications, which are detailed in the draft policy on Access Management.
Effective management of the access issue parkwide is critical to preserving the park's cultural and natural resources and their enjoyment by visitors. Every effort will be made to work with neighboring landowners to ensure that their right to access park owned land and/or roads is honored in keeping with the intent of the original deed reservation.
The public is invited to comment on the Access Management Policy. Copies of the park's policy are available by calling (804)795-5018.