- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Two Civil War sites in Virginia, one in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia are among the 10 most-endangered by urban sprawl and storm erosion, according to a study released yesterday by a preservation group.

The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) pared down to 10 a list of 384 war sites in 26 states deemed historically significant by a congressional commission in 1993. The 32,000-member group ranked each, considering their location, military significance and immediacy of the current threat.

"Those battlefields represent the most tangible connection between those of us alive today and what we believe is the most defining moment in the nation's history," CPWT President James Lighthizer said.

Loudoun Valley, site of a series of lesser-known cavalry battles in 1863, and the Wilderness, where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first clashed, were the representatives from Virginia.

Mr. Lighthizer cited sprawl in all its forms as the battlefields' No. 1 enemy.

The trust said land development in Loudon Valley, between Manassas and the Blue Ridge Mountains, is occurring twice as fast as population growth and threatens to absorb the battlefield.

In the Wilderness, a wooded area just west of Fredericksburg, preservation trust officials said the threat comes from intense residential and commercial development pressure along the Orange Turnpike and the Old Orange Plank Road.

But the larger battlefields aren't immune to sprawl.

Gettysburg, Pa., also made the top 10 list, as its keepers try to replace its visitors center. The current center sits on the fishhook that made up the Union line; Gettysburg officials plan to move it to an area about half a mile away, where no major battle action took place.

Preservation trust officials fear the new location on the Baltimore Pike could become a magnet for trendy tourist shops and fast-food restaurants that dot the Steinwehr Avenue corridor, the main access to the park.

Officials at Gettysburg National Military Park don't see their inclusion on the list as a bad thing.

"I think it's good news in some ways because it's always important to draw attention to sites," said park spokeswoman Katie Lahon. "It's a challenge to ensure that Baltimore Pike is preserved."

The other Civil War sites on the trust's list are: Allatoona, Ga.; Brice's Cross Roads, Miss.; Fort Fisher, N.C.; Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; Mansfield, La.; Raymond, Miss.; and Stones River, Tenn.

Noticeably absent from the list were any Civil War battlefields in Maryland.

Mr. Lighthizer, a former Anne Arundel County executive and former head of the Maryland Department of Transportation, is credited with a pioneering program of using federal transportation enhancement funds to preserve thousands of acres of Civil War land.

He said the program has flourished even beyond his tenure.

"Maryland has done such an incredibly good job of building their program. If the rest of the states were like Maryland, they wouldn't need us," he said.

He said Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi have begun using similar transportation funds to acquire Civil War tracts, but "Maryland is in a class by itself."

If individuals want to help, Mr. Lighthizer said the best way is to let government, both national and local, know that preserving battlefields should be a priority.

"We don't want free money, but the federal government has got to be involved in this," he said. "They think of tax revenue. Legitimate historical ground that is saved and properly marketed can be just as profitable as a strip center."

The trust's Internet site, at www.civilwar.org, includes resources for people who want to help.

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