Senator Webb Proposes To Add 7,200 Acres to Petersburg National Battlefield

A U.S. senator wants to more than triple the size of Petersburg National Battlefield. NPS image.

A U.S. senator from Virgina wants to more than triple the size of Petersburg National Battlefield by adding 7,200 acres to it, a move that would make Petersburg the largest military park in the country.

If Sen. Jim Webb's proposal advances to passage, it would cost roughly $30 million over a 15-20-year-period to make the acquisitions, and then something less than $500,00 annually to pay for trails, exhibits, surveys and studies throughout the acquisition process, and finally about $500,000 a year for operations and maintenance, according to a Congressional Budget Office projection.

Sen. Webb, a Democrat, introduced the legislation earlier this week. Called the “Petersburg National Boundary Modification Act,” the measure calls for the National Park Service to acquire 12 battlefields, totaling 7,200 acres, surrounding Petersburg National Battlefield. This expansion of the park was recommended in the National Park Service’s Final General Management Plan in 2005, the senator pointed out.

“Petersburg saw nearly one quarter of the Civil War fought in its surrounding area, and the preservation of these battlefields is important for future generations to understand and appreciate the significance of our nation’s history,” Sen. Webb said in a release from his office. “Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and this legislation serves as an appropriate and timely means to commemorate this significant historical event.

“Additionally, investing in historic landmarks benefits the Commonwealth’s tourism sector,” he added. “154,000 visitors come to Petersburg National Battlefield each year, generating more than $9 million in local revenue. For this reason, the legislation is important to our continuing efforts to spur tourism and new jobs in Petersburg and the surrounding communities.”

Since entering the Senate in 2007, Sen. Webb has been a strong voice for historical and natural preservation. In 2009, he championed the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act,” which renewed The America Battlefield Protection Program and continued the successful federal partnership that has saved nearly 7,000 acres at 17 battlefields sites in Virginia. The senator also cosponsored the successful “Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act” to preserve a 175-mile area encompassing eight presidential homes or sites, 15 National Historic Landmarks, 47 historic districts and the largest collection of Revolutionary War sites and Civil War battlefields in America.

Additionally, in October, Sen. Webb introduced legislation to establish a Commission to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Comments

There are actually more than 50,000 acres around Petersburg of high significance battlegrounds. As your article says, Petersburg was much more than a single battle, but over 10 battles the size of Gettysburg. Because of the prolonged horror of Petersburg -- the 'arithmetic' as A. Lincoln called it -- Petersburg never captured the imagination of the romantics who are enthralled by tales of gallantry in the comparatively neater and quicker clashes of arms in the Civil War. Those who have seen, in the movie 'Cold Mountain' the horror of the Battle of the Crater know what I am talking about.

What Petersburg shows better than the more charismatic battles is how destructive and debasing major collisions between major armies actually can be.

Yet the country side all around the tiny existing Petersburg National Battlefield still has long lines of original earthworks snaking through for miles. These are deteriorating at an alarming rate, and most of them are unprotected.

we cannot pay our bills now,when will people start to think that projects like this are unnecessary,every state politician wants to spend money thats ;not there,reign in the spending for gods sake....period.funding for more gas,oil,offshore drilling,solar power,wind power are a lot more important than all these projects that state politicians want to spend...

A similar bill, HR3338, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes, passed the House last fall and is committee in the Senate. Before we get too spun up about the cost estimates, it should be noted that while CBO and others must estimate maximum land acquisition cost, there are mechanisms, such as easements, to preserve resources at lower cost, and these would certainly come into play here. Also, there are private organizations that already hold interests in some of these lands who will likely donate them to the NPS should the bill pass.

Petersburg is frequently on the Civil War Preservation Trust's annual list of most threatened battlefields, and it is encouraging to see a bipartisan effort to protect this cultural resource, with extensive community involvement, planning, and support.

have you ever seen the gov.come under est.costs of any project?any dollar spent at this time is wrong. i love the parks,but right now a lot of things need to be under the hatchet,not only parks.

Dear Anon -- actually, a lot of projects are coming in under budget right now. Contractors are coming up with real bids and right cost levels, because they need the work. Something else, when you go out for government contracts now, many more people are bidding. With more bids, you have better competition and lower prices.

It is really astonishing. A few years ago, I was managing several projects, and we were lucky to get more than one bid on the contract. Everybody was working. The few who did bid came in and complained that we had underestimated the difficulty of the job, and demanded we redescribe the job, or we would get no bids at all.

Now, things are different, and you don't get these kinds of games from private contractors. During 'good times' things were different, and a lot more games were being played by the private sector. Also, private construction contractors had options to bid on extravagant residential projects that were actually as expensive as the govt. project, without the government rules. There are far few of these "McMansions" being built or retrofitted.

On land values, the real issue at Petersburg, appraisals have been coming in much lower all over the country. Petersburg itself is not a wealthy area, and the big competition was the local hope for malls to be built along the very-low-used US Interstate Highways built by former Senator John Warner. So, no one is bidding now for the lands around Petersburg. Buy now and get a good price.

If you wait, in a few years it will be double what you can get today. In most parks, managing more land does not add a lot to expense. Petersburg might be a different story if the NPS intends to keep the area in grass. Maybe they could get some farmers to keep it in hay.

People are so confused about what costs money in government. Every thing does not lead to the same high level of future expense. You need to know what costs a lot in the out-years, and what does not. One of the reasons Americans can be so buffaloed by politicians is how very little they understand about appropriations and legislation. Almost no body learns any of this is school any more -- what ever happened to Civics Classes?? Not to mention macro economics !

I am glad to see the guy in the Thread about "Reducing the Federal Deficit" point out the way parks can save health dollars and promote healthy lives.