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Battlefield group asks Jefferson Co. for $1 million

March 10, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A group trying to preserve a Civil War Battlefield near Shepherdstown, W.Va. asked the Jefferson County Commission Thursday to allocate up to $1 million to help purchase the land.

Two members of the Jefferson County Commission said after Thursday's commission meeting that they do not believe the county will allocate the money.

Commission member Dale Manuel said the commission is facing many funding requests for paid firefighters, additional deputies and other needs and funds are tight.

"We don't have ($1 million) to give anyone for projects. The money is not there," Manuel said.

Some county residents have been supportive of saving the site where the Battle of Shepherdstown occurred, saying it is a way to boost tourism in the area and teach people about West Virginia history.

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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 152 homes on 112 acres in the area.

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

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.

The asking price for the property is $3.6 million.

Members of the local organization that is trying to save the battlefield, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association LLC, are hoping that groups like the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Conservation Trust will put money toward the purchase.

Ed Dunleavy, the president of the group, said Thursday those groups are more likely to help fund land purchases if there is financial support at home for the projects.

"I'm talking to some people who have done it," said Dunleavy, referring to other groups who have worked to preserve battlefields. "That's the advice I've gotten."

The up to $1 million that would come from the commission would be used to match, dollar for dollar, funds that would come from other sources, Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said he also has been in contact with Gov. Joe Manchin's office, and indirectly through Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, about getting funding from the governor's office for the purchase.

Commission members are formulating their next budget and are getting funding requests from groups in the county,

Although Commission President Greg Corliss said during Thursday's meeting that Dunleavy's request would be considered as part of the process, Corliss said after the meeting that he did not think there is support for it.

Manuel said another concern he has about the situation is that he has heard that the owners of Far Away Farm are not interested in selling the property.

Commission member Rusty Morgan said he thinks there would be stronger support from the community for the allocation of the money if the property could be used for other purposes, such as recreation.

The Battle of Shepherdstown took place on Sept. 19 and 20, 1862.

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.

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