View Full Version : Preservation Progress: Stafford County VA

12-21-2008, 02:51 PM
See below article from the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star Newspaper: progress!

Jerry Lynes
Fredericksburg, VA

Preserving Civil War forts
Fredericksburg (VA) Free-Lance Star
December 19, 2008



Stafford County has decided to save the best of its remaining, unprotected Civil War sites and turn them into a public park.

The Board of Supervisors approved the ambitious effort Tuesday evening, approving an action plan and creating a steering group to guide the work.

The public-private project, spearheaded by the local nonprofit Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, aims to open the 25-acre park by 2011--in time for the start of the nation's Civil War sesquicentennial.

To get started, the Stafford board set aside $25,000 provided by the regional board that operates the Stafford-Fredericksburg landfill. The Friends group, which proposed the idea, has committed to raise most of the money and in-kind donations needed to build the park and its access road.

The park would preserve several Civil War forts, and other historic sites, that occupy a small piece of the sprawling landfill property in central Stafford.

In January, the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board reshaped an 80-acre landfill expansion, giving up 3 to 5 acres, to preserve one of the forts.

Built to defend against a feared attack by Confederate cavalry, the earthworks were part of a network of fortifications that protected Union Army encampments in Stafford.

In midwar, the county was home to at least 120,000 Federal troops, and the Army's busy supply depot at Aquia Landing on the Potomac River.

The Union soldiers' presence was the single most transformative event in Stafford's history, said John Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Their log, mud and canvas homes amounted to the largest "city" in North America at the time. Stafford's civilian population, about 8,300 people, was overwhelmed by the Army's encampments, and it took more than a century for the county to recover from the war's effects.

Today, few of the forts and campsites have survived the waves of development that have hit Stafford. The landfill tract's sites are considered the best group that remain.

The supervisors appeared to unanimously favor the park, but bogged down Tuesday over how much of the landfill's $115,000 available money to use.

Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer prevailed in a 5-2 vote to appropriate $25,000, part of which will fund an engineering study for the park road. Dudenhefer said he couldn't support more at a time when Stafford, in a major budget squeeze, has had to freeze teacher pay and lay off employees.

Supervisors Harry Crisp and Paul Milde--who had pushed most strongly for the park--wound up voting against the compromise because of the dispute over the appropriation.

"The vote shows that despite sometimes passionate disagreements, the supervisors can--and do--move forward on projects like this park, which will serve all Stafford citizens at little to no cost to the taxpayers," said Stafford resident Glenn Trimmer, who leads the Friends group with White Oak Museum founder D.P. Newton.

"If you do this right, if you keep this plan simple, it's the fortifications and the historic sites that are worth more money than we could ever hope to raise," Trimmer said. "They'll be there, and they'll speak for themselves--for what the soldiers did here. That's what we're trying to accomplish."

The supervisors' decision marks a turnaround from Presidents Day weekend 2005, when county officials failed to stop a subcontractor's bulldozers from destroying a Union fort atop a hill in a subdivision being built near Potomac Creek.

Under Crisp's plan, the county will create a master plan and negotiate an agreement with the Friends to establish the park, including hiking trails and interpretive signs.

Later, the county would put protective easements on the historic sites, and do an archaeological study of the park access road's route.

The plan sets up a steering group with members from the Board of Supervisors, Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, Planning Commission, Historical Commission and planning, economic-development and parks agencies.

Supporters say the park would be a boon to tourism, much like two Civil War redoubts that Williamsburg saved and opened as a park during Jamestown's 400th anniversary in 2007.

For details, call the Friends at 540/658-6324.

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com