From the Civil War Trust:
Commonwealth of Virginia, Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University Announce Public-Private Partnership to Protect Cool Spring Battlefield
Former golf course will become outdoor classroom offering university students hands-on experience in outdoor leadership and education, history and environmental studies; public will retain access to scenic property
(Clarke County, Va.) – This morning, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech joined representatives of the Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University to celebrate the successful completion of a public-private partnership to permanently protect 195 acres along the Shenandoah River that played a crucial role in the July 18, 1864, Battle of Cool Spring.” The event was part of the Commonwealth’s celebration of Earth Week 2013 and highlighted the project’s unique intersection of environmental benefit, educational opportunity and economic growth potential.
“I can think of no better way to honor the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring the protection and care of our state’s natural resources this Earth Week than by celebrating our partnership to conserve this site,” said Secretary Domenech. “With its sweeping views of the Virginia countryside, Shenandoah River access and historic pedigree, this land will be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come.”
Virginia Director of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick agreed, adding, “Through this preservation partnership, the Cool Spring Battlefield will be far more than a passive historic site — this land is poised to become a dynamic, multi-faceted learning environment that will enhance educational opportunities in a variety of fields.” (Full Story Here)
And how did this all come together?
This portion of the Cool Springs Battlefield was part of the Virginia National Country Club (the other side of the battlefield, where some of the most significant fighting took place, is part of the Holy Cross Abby). When the country club fell into bankruptcy, the Trust and other parties first proposed adding the facility to the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NVRPA)system. The plan dropped when the Clarke County Board of Supervisors voted down the option to join NVRPA in March of last year. At the time, the supervisors left open other options to preserve the portion of the battlefield in question. I hoped that was the opening needed to follow through with another preservation plan.
Indeed, it was. In September, the Trust announced that Cool Springs was among seven battlefields benefiting from a generous state grant. Funding remained incomplete, so the Trust worked their magic:
Protection of the Cool Spring site was made possible through generous, competitively awarded preservation matching grants from both the federal and state governments. The American Battlefield Protection Program, administered by the National Park Service, contributed $200,000 toward the $2 million total purchase price, while the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund — the most successful state level grant program of its kind in the nation — put forward another $800,000. Remaining funding was secured through a significant landowner donation and contributions from Trust members.
But this won’t be just some battlefield park with associated overhead costs. Instead, the battlefield, while remaining open to the public, was transferred over to Shenandoah University:
In 2012, the Civil War Trust negotiated to acquire the 195-acre former Virginia National Country Club following its bankruptcy. Recognizing the site’s unique potential as a community resource, the Trust began investigating a variety of partnership opportunities for long-term stewardship of the battlefield, before settling on what Lighthizer calls the “perfect solution” — transferring the property to Shenandoah University….
The university is currently evaluating options and developing proposals for specific programming to take place at the Cool Spring site. The property and surrounding environment has the potential to serve as an experiential learning campus for academic programs in the fields of outdoor leadership and education, environmental studies and history.
In addition, numerous possibilities are being considered to integrate the campus community as a whole through opportunities developed and implemented by Shenandoah University’s Division of Student Life. These co-curricular pieces are fundamental for enhancing a connection to the region, while promoting environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the Cool Spring site will afford local schools and the public at large with opportunities to explore the region through historical and natural interpretation.
At a minimum, this is a win for all concerned. What I do hope is this is further transformed into a greater victory with the university’s use of this property as an educational resource. Hopefully the curriculum which leverages Cool Springs will aid the development of preservation and conservation oriented planners.