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Group seeks help in saving battlefield land

January 16, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - If the project is a success, the process of establishing a park to protect a Civil War battlefield near Shepherdstown, W.Va., could take about two years, according to the head of a group working to save the battlefield.

Ed Dunleavy, president of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association LLC, made the comments following a Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday.

Dunleavy asked the commission to sign an application for $100,000 from the state Department of Transportation to help purchase the battlefield property and the commission approved signing the application on a 3-2 vote.

Awarding of the money requires a $25,000 match, and the Civil War Preservation Trust group has agreed to match the money, Dunleavy said.

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Dunleavy said another $100,000 will be sought from the Department of Transportation to purchase the property, which currently has a price tag of $3.6 million, and the Civil War Preservation Trust has agreed to give a $20,000 match to help secure that money.

Dunleavy said he hopes groups like the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Conservation Trust will help provide funds needed for the purchase.

When such groups purchase land, the money often must be paid back, Dunleavy said.

It is hoped the battlefield site can be sold to the National Park Service after it is acquired and that money can be used to pay back the funding organizations, Dunleavy said.

Money to buy the site is just one of the challenges, Dunleavy said:

- He said he has been told the National Park Service cannot acquire property unless the land is contiguous to land the park service already owns.

Dunleavy said his group is working on a strategy of turning over small sections of property next to the battlefield to the National Park Service, thus creating a contiguous link to the battlefield.

- He said he has been told that the process of establishing a park could take about two years.

- Commission member Dale Manuel said Thursday it is unclear whether the property is for sale.

Commission member Rusty Morgan said he checked real estate listings and the property - also referred to as Far Away Farm - is still listed.

Dunleavy said the asking price for the property is $3.6 million.

Commission members began discussing the idea of establishing a park to save the battlefield off Trough Road east of Shepherdstown following a controversial proposal to build 100 homes in the area.

Far Away Farm LLC's proposal to build homes on 112 acres generated opposition from several residents and preservation groups who say the site is where part of the Battle of Shepherdstown was fought.

The Battle of Shepherdstown took place Sept. 19 and 20, 1862, on acreage to the west side of what is now Trough Road, including Far Away Farm, according to the National Park Service's Web site.

After the Battle of Antietam, Gen. Robert E. Lee began to pull his Army of Northern Virginia back across the Potomac River, crossing at Pack Horse Ford.

Union soldiers arrived on the Maryland side of the river the following morning and began to shoot at southern troops across the water.

There were more than 600 casualties, according to historians.

After winding through a long county regulatory process, members of the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals turned down a conditional-use permit for the development, saying it was not compatible with the area where it was going to be built.

During a public hearing in November that was held by the county commission, speakers gave overwhelming support for the idea of saving the area as a battlefield park and said it was a way to boost tourism.

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