Alliance Forms in Support of State Park at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Battlefields
(Culpeper, Va.) – Preservation advocates and community leaders joined today to announce the creation of the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance, a broad-based coalition of organizations in support of a state historical park in Virginia’s picturesque Piedmont region. The proposed state park would transform nearly 1,200 acres of pristine battlefield land preserved by private nonprofit groups into a major heritage tourism and recreation destination, centered in Culpeper County.
“Preserving and interpreting the battlefields at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain is essential to telling the story of the Civil War in Culpeper County,” remarked Joseph McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, one of the founding groups of the new state park alliance. “A Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park would provide an enriching experience for Virginians and out-of-state visitors alike, honoring those who served and ensuring that the public is informed regarding the significant events that occurred here just over 150 years ago.”
Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, another member group of the alliance, shares McKinney’s enthusiasm for a cohesive state park integrating the properties preserved to date at Brandy Station and at Cedar Mountain — the latter host to the first major Civil War battle fought in Culpeper County.
“The Battle of Cedar Mountain was the bloodiest day in Culpeper’s history,” said Logan. “The land here tells a powerful story, as at Brandy Station. Weaving these stories together within a unified state park would allow visitors an even better understanding of where each site fits within the larger context of the Civil War. Combined with the natural beauty and exciting recreational opportunities at these sites, both the county and downtown Culpeper would be sure to see a substantial increase in tourism as a direct result of the park’s creation.”
Founding member groups of the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance include the Brandy Station Foundation, the Civil War Trust, the Culpeper Department of Tourism, the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, the Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia and the Remington Community Partnership.
Currently, the Brandy Station Foundation and the Civil War Trust — a national, nonprofit battlefield preservation organization — own 1,020 acres at Brandy Station; the Trust holds an additional 164 acres at Cedar Mountain. In addition, the two organizations, along with the Piedmont Environmental Council, have secured conservation easements on 3,638 acres, making the two battlefields among the best preserved historic sites in private hands in Virginia.
Transferring the land to the Commonwealth would create a new state park in an area of Virginia which has long pursued one. With historic sites like James Madison’s Montpelier nearby, as well as other open-air attractions such as Shenandoah National Park, adding Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park to the landscape would create a tourism hub for history lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
“We’re excited by the positive growth that this project promises to bring to Culpeper,” said Paige Read, director of economic development and tourism for Culpeper. “A new state park has the potential to bring in millions of added dollars in visitor spending for area businesses.”
Dale Duvall, president of the board of trustees for the Museum of Culpeper History, agrees.
“The benefits of a new state park in Culpeper would not stop at its borders,” said Duvall. “The spotlight such a park would shine on our battlefields would extend to other sites throughout Culpeper and this part of Virginia, motivating visitors to the region to stay longer and see and experience more of what we have to offer.”
Additionally, the park would benefit from its location at the center of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide landscape stretching from Gettysburg, Pa., to Charlottesville, Va.
“A new state park along the Journey would be a welcome addition in showcasing the unparalleled history of this area,” said Bill Sellers, president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “Accordingly, we are proud to be a part of the growing Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance and look forward to assisting however possible in making this state park a reality.”
Together with historical significance, outdoor opportunities at the two sites abound, resulting in what could quickly become one of the most recreationally diverse parks in Virginia’s state park system. The proximity of Brandy Station to the Rappahannock River, for instance, could ultimately provide increased access to one of the most scenic waterways in the Commonwealth. Horseback riding, biking and primitive or interpretive camping consistent with ongoing historic preservation objectives could potentially draw a wider variety of visitors to the region as well.
“This initiative is every bit as exciting from a natural perspective as it is from a historical one,” said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “Culpeper’s battlefields do not serve simply as a window into the past; they provide an enduring connection to this portion of the Virginia Piedmont and its strong agricultural tradition, a breadbasket for the nation now as it was during the Civil War. Preserving the rolling fields and pastures gives modern travelers a real connection to the landscape of the 1860s. The Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park represents an idea whose time has come.”
The Alliance is working in concert with the Civil War Trust on the preparation of a professional feasibility study — spearheaded by Stach PLLC and the Community Land Use + Economics Group, with an anticipated release date in October — which will further examine and expand upon themes central to the park’s creation. Many of the fundamental building blocks for a new park are already in place, including an active support network and battlefield friends groups; parking; and a series of interpretive trails with accompanying signage. Further improvements will be announced this fall.
“Thanks to the tremendous support of our partners on the Alliance, we are moving as one to create a permanent place of education, recreation and reflection,” said Trust President Jim Lighthizer. “I am confident that this movement will succeed in highlighting the immense opportunity available to the Commonwealth of Virginia at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain. With the 80th anniversary of the Virginia state park system on the immediate horizon, this is the moment to act — and secure a legacy for the Old Dominion that will last for generations to come.”
(To learn more about the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance, visit us online at www.BSCMStatePark.com)