At least once on every visit a “cannonball” park, I’ll encounter someone who’s out on the field for something other than touring the battlefield. Most often, such as at Manassas, the person is jogging or walking. But a good number of non-battlefield oriented visitors are just taking in the greenspace and enjoying nature. While not true “dual-use” this does indicate some visitors use the park’s resources for something other than that covered by the primary mission of the park.
For example, since I brought up nature and Manassas, that park is debuting its Stone Bridge Nature trail today. Timed for National Public Lands Day. From the Park’s Facebook page:
Just in time for National Public Lands Day, Manassas National Battlefield Park is proud to announce that we have a new natural resource cell phone tour along the park’s Stone Bridge Trail to go along with our current historical Henry Hill cell phone tour. To take the tour just pick up a rack card at the park visitor center, or at the head of the Stone Bridge Trail, enter the telephone number provided; (your cell phone minutes plan applies) then enter the trail stop number. New signs have been placed along the trail to direct visitors from stop to stop. You can stay connected while walking to the next stop or end the call and call back. This new cell phone tour highlights how the setting and climate has changed and provides other information on natural resources within the park. There is a tour for adults and another for children. These tours are currently offered English with a Spanish version coming soon.
National Public Lands Day (NPLD)?
Yes, I must confess, that is new to me. Apparently it’s been around since the 1990s. According to the day’s website, the National Environmental Education Foundation uses this day to promote popular enjoyment and volunteer conservation, in the spirit of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. The program is not just exclusive to national parks, or even just federal lands, but across a broad range of public lands.
The nature trail at Manassas and NPLD bring to the fore an interesting angle of visitor perspective to the preserved battlefields. While we battlefield stompers look across that bottom land near Stone Bridge and think about troop movements, other people will draw as much, if not more, enjoyment considering the natural setting. Of course there are times, such as when a doe and her fawns step out of the trees to munch on the grass, that all of us are nature lovers.
Regardless, that land is not there exclusively for a single group or class of users. And that is not to say there is contention or conflict over the use of battlefield lands. Quite the opposite. At places such as Manassas, preservationists and conservationists have more often than not worked in consort (although sometimes there is contention). There’s some common ground there – both metaphoric and physical.