How many times have you visited a national park and wondered why they do the things they do in terms of managing the property? Well, now's your chance to let the National Park Service know how you'd like to see Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park managed for the next two decades or so. The timing is particularly important in light of the land preservation battle going on just beyond the park's boundaries and with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War to kick off in just two years.
General Management Plans for units of the National Park System aren't crafted overnight. They can take years to produce, require public comment all through the process, and are expected to stand in place for a couple of decades. The last time Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania officials developed a GMP, in 1986, the president of the United States was Ronald Reagan.
With that in mind, officials for the national military park are launching a series of public meetings to inform the general public of the process. The first of these is scheduled for Wednesday evening, July 29, at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. A second public meeting is set for Thursday, July 30, from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the headquarters branch of the Central Rappahannock Central Library in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A third is set for September 9 at the Lake of the Woods Clubhouse in Lake of the Woods, Virginia, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"We want to hear your ideas for preserving tremendously significant historic objects and landscapes and for providing the type of high quality visitor facilities and experiences that both educate and stimulate. We will need your help in identifying issues, formulating solutions, and peering 20 years into the future," said Superintendent Russ Smith.
The 7,000-acre military park preserves and interprets four major Civil War battles: Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefields. Located midway between Washington D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, along the Rappahannock River, the Fredericksburg area became the most fought over ground of the Civil War, resulting in more than 100,000 casualties and devastation to the local communities.
During the upcoming public meetings, officials want to know what aspect of the military park is most important to you, what opportunities you would like to see in the park in the years ahead, and how officials can better protect viewsheds and historic lands associated with the battlefields. Topics open for consideration range from how interpretation is conducted to what recreational uses of the park are to be allowed.
Additionally, park officials are interested in hearing from groups or individuals that would be interested in working with the Park Service to preserve and interpret the battlefields.
Under the park's timetable, between this fall and next spring planners will work on developing a variety of management alternatives to be considered for inclusion in the revised GMP. Between the spring of 2010 and spring of 2011 park planners will develop a draft GMP based on the public's suggestions and desires. During the summer of 2011 this draft document will be further refined, with a final version developed and implemented beginning in 2012.