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 Posted: Wed May 2nd, 2007 03:34 pm
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Art B.
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Here's my inquiry of yesterday to CWPT. Following it is the reply I received PDQ from a CWPT spokesman.
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Might somebody at the other end of this e-mail describe the goings on at 3rd Winchester battlefield, specifically the reported design and construction of a 10’-21’ wide bicycle path?

An internet correspondent mentioned this project as well as a brief conversation with a CWPT officer, a short talk which, according to the correspondent, wasn’t cordial at all.

I’m looking for answers, not casting aspersions. Thank you kindly for your reply.


Art Bagley
Tampa, Florida
CWPT Past Member & Current Donor [but not a Current Member]
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Dear Mr. Bagley:

This is in response to your questions about our interpretive project in Winchester, which includes hiking and biking trails which will, for the first time, provide public access throughout the 200+ acre property.

First, thank you for helping in the fight to save our Civil War battlefields.  We share your passion for the preservation of these hallowed grounds.

CWPT is also obligated to making saved property available and accessible to the public in order to help interpret the history, reward our members and others committed to maintaining open space, and to reach out to others to join the cause.  While we certainly count the Third Winchester Battlefield as a great preservation success, it had become a forgotten and unused property.  Only a small number of intense Civil War enthusiasts know how to find it.  Once found, most visitors would not know where to walk, would not be able to trudge their way through the woods and gullies if they were not fit enough or the weather was not good enough, and would not know what they were seeing if they happened across key points on the battlefield.

CWPT concluded that we owed the public more.

Therefore, in 2003, we embarked on a process to create an interpretive plan for the Third Battle of Winchester.  That process included the cooperation and input of noted historians, state and federal agencies responsible for historical and environmental protection, and members of the local community.  It culminated in the design and permitting of the trails that you asked about in your email.

In total, the project comprises about 5 miles of trails and 35 interpretive signs leading visitors to such vantage points as Red Bud Run, Hackwood Lane, and the First Woods.  We even worked in a 1-mile loop trail that goes through areas severely disturbed before we acquired the property, including a raised power line right-of-way and a large abandoned shale pit used during the construction of I-81.  This segment provides a stark contrast to the fields and woods elsewhere on the battlefield, and allows us to provide a powerful message about the importance of protecting historical properties in places where sprawl and widening transportation corridors are a constant threat.

CWPT made the strategic choice to make the trail suitable for biking with the goal of making the park accessible and attractive to a wider community.  As you may know, biking is a very popular activity in the Washington, DC, area, which boasts many urban and rural trails within easy reach.  In addition, the oddly linear shape of the property meant that one could walk it, but that it would take several hours to completely traverse the historic portions of the land.  A visit on bikes, on the other hand, would allow a visitor to see and understand the battlefield during a manageable period of time.

There is also a keen interest in biking in Winchester in particular, where there are several active biking clubs (including the Winchester Wheelmen who have volunteered to help maintain the site) and where the City has built the “Green Circle,” a walking and biking trail that encircles the City and connects with parks and tourist attractions.  In the longer term, there is ongoing discussion about the possibility of linking several battlefields throughout the Shenandoah Valley through a series of biking trails.  Given the political and financial pressures that often run counter to preservation activities in this rapidly growing region, we thought that tapping into this groundswell of community interest was an intriguing opportunity.

Despite these best intentions, we also know that this choice brought several construction and community relations challenges.

Chief among these were the need to have the trails wide enough to accommodate two passing bikers, surfaced with a material that would be lasting and suitable for biking, and raised up and contoured in places to allow storm water to drain and creeks to flow.  At the same time, we are building trails through stretches of woods that have required the removal of large trees, which are not witness trees themselves but are in places where historic trees once stood.  And then there’s the mere sight of large, yellow earth-working equipment on a battlefield, which brings an instinctive adverse reaction to preservationists like you and me.

My response to these concerns is that we are actively overseeing the construction, making sure that it conforms to applicable standards and is followed by appropriate reseeding and replanting in disturbed areas on the shoulders of the trail.  We also hold firm to the belief that the ultimate benefits of the trails will greatly exceed the costs, just like the roads to the top of Little Round Top at Gettysburg and the paved trails to Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam have made those sites accessible to millions of park visitors over the years, and generated unquantifiable support for Civil War battlefield preservation.

So I ask that you please bear with us as we get the construction phase behind us and as you continue to keep a close eye on us.

I again emphasize that we share your goals, welcome your active participation and constructive criticism, and know that CWPT cannot accomplish anything without the support of dedicated people like yourself.

Later this year we will be opening up this historic and beautiful site to the public, and for the first time providing a site which can be thoroughly accessed easily by visitors, and understood through the interpretive trail and signage.  I hope that at some point you will be able to visit, and I would invite you to let us know if you are able to get to the area, to enjoy a walk or a ride together and hopefully learn more about the battlefield.

Sincerely,

Doug Brouder
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OK, well, maybe...benefit-of-the-doubt time. I hope CWI "locals" can keep us up-to-date as to the use and benefits of this surprise project. Thanks for listening.

Art in Tampa, FL

Last edited on Wed May 2nd, 2007 03:39 pm by Art B.

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