(Chancellorsville, Va.) - At a news conference this morning at Old Salem Church, seven national and local nonprofit conservation groups announced they have formed the "Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield," a partnership of preservation, conservation and civic organizations determined to protect historic Chancellorsville battlefield.
"Chancellorsville is a national treasure," noted James Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Preservation Trust, a coalition member organization. "The battlefield's address may be in Virginia, but this hallowed shrine belongs to the entire country. We invite other groups to work with us to save this celebrated battlefield."
The goal of the coalition is to promote the long-term preservation of Chancellorsville battlefield. This includes prevention of the most immediate menace to the historic site - an enormous 2,350-house development complete with 2.4 million square feet of commercial and office space. The development plan is the brainchild of the Dogwood Development Group, a Reston, Va. firm.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, another coalition member organization, identified Chancellorsville as one of the most endangered historic sites in the nation in 1998. "We believed that the uncontrolled growth in this area warranted our listing Chancellorsville as one of America's most endangered historic places in 1998," remarked National Trust spokesperson Robert Nieweg. "Four years later, the threat has grown even greater."
Joy Oakes, spokesperson for the National Parks Conservation Association, stated: "National parks like Chancellorsville are a tremendous asset to the local community, both as open space and low-impact economic engines. However, a community can squander these assets by failing to plan for the preservation of the park in their backyard."
If implemented, the Dogwood proposal will not only destroy significant portions of the battlefield, but it will also drop a 10,000-person "city" into the middle of rural Spotsylvania County. The 790-acre project will serve as a magnet for additional development, transforming the now pastoral landscape into tract housing and strip malls.
"This isn't just about the battlefield," stated local resident and Central Virginia Battlefields Trust President John D. Mitchell. "It is also about the kind of place Spotsylvania County residents want our children to grow up in. If I wanted my kids to live in crowded neighborhoods and dodge traffic all day, I'd move to Northern Virginia."
Another local resident, Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation President Helen Springer asked, "How much would taxes increase to provide public services to this new city? How much would the county and state have to spend to make room for 70,000 or more new car trips each day? These are critical questions county residents and the board of supervisors need to ask."
The Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield is an informal group of national and local preservation, conservation and civic groups who share an abiding interest in preserving and protecting Chancellorsville battlefield. The seven nonprofit organizations that have joined the coalition are: the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust; the Civil War Preservation Trust; Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields; the National Parks Conservation Association; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association; and the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation, Inc.