Four million dollars from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund bought at least 385 acres for Richmond National Battlefield Park, a purchase that preserves hallowed ground and is seen as economic development for tourism.
“Tourism is one of the top economic drivers in Virginia and in communities throughout the country,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday during a ceremony in Richmond, Virginia. “These acquisitions, funded by fees from offshore oil and gas development, will enable us to preserve two key battlefields of the Civil War and help draw more visitors and jobs to the area. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”
The acquisition was hailed by Civil War Trust officials, who have worked the past decade to preserve additional lands vital to the national battlefield.
"Setting aside federal funds for battlefield preservation will create a lasting legacy of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration, one that will live on far beyond our lifetimes," said James Lighthizer, the Trust's president. "Today’s announcement will ensure that some of the most hallowed ground in America is protected for future generations to visit, learn from and enjoy.
“There is no higher recognition of a battlefield's indelible link to our past than its inclusion within a national park. Today’s announcement from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar means that historic Civil War battlefields around Richmond will be fully integrated in Richmond National Battlefield Park, enhancing tourism and creating new jobs in time to commemorate the events that took place 150 years ago this spring and summer.”
Richmond National Battlefield Park was designated in 1936 and "contains 13 individual park units commemorating the numerous battles fought over the Virginia capital from 1862 through 1865," according to the Trust. "Although the park’s congressionally authorized boundary extends to 7,100 acres, only about 30 percent of that area is currently protected by the National Park Service. "
The announcement also was portrayed as part of the administration's efforts to put Americans back to work and strengthen the U.S. economy by promoting the United States as a tourism destination.
In January, President Obama launched the creation of a Travel & Competitiveness Task Force to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. A particular focus of the Task Force is on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures – including our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe.
Joined by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, Secretary Salazar made the announcement following a town hall meeting that attracted more than 100 Richmond area tourism and business leaders. During the meeting, participants shared ideas, success stories and challenges, and best practices in promoting battlefield and heritage tourism – including that related to the Civil War – in the Richmond area.
“The history of Virginia is the history of our country, and we want all Americans, and visitors from across the world, to come to the Commonwealth to learn about this incredible history,” Governor McDonnell said. “Richmond is home to some of the most historic events in our country’s narrative, and this partnership in preserving more of our battlefields will ensure that future generations are able to learn about our past and inform the future of this great country. Tourism also supports jobs across the Commonwealth. In 2010, tourism in Virginia generated $18.9 billion in revenue, provided $1.3 billion in state and local taxes and supported more than 204,000 jobs. In these difficult economic times, these investments in our history will also pay dividends to our future by putting more people back to work.”
The land preservation announcement also builds on work undertaken by the Civil War Trust over the last decade to preserve Richmond’s Civil War battlefields. The land to be preserved with the new funds lies primarily on the Glendale and Malvern Hill battlefields, both of which figured prominently in the summer 1862 campaign by Union Gen. George B. McClellan to take the Confederate capital.
“The events that unfolded on this landscape are as important as those that took place in Gettysburg and Manassas,” said Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “What happened here changed how this war would be fought, and what it would be fought over. Until now, this has been little understood because there were few places preserved to tell that story and they were disconnected from one another. That changes today.”
The $4 million will acquire at least 385 acres, much of which lies on the Glendale battlefield. Until now, Glendale has been inaccessible to visitors. With these preservation funds, the battlefield will be almost entirely preserved and the area will be made accessible to visitors for the first time.
Nearly 23 million people visit Virginia’s 22 National Park Sites, with out-of-town visitors contributing $493 million to local economies and supporting 7,000 private sector jobs. At Richmond National Battlefield Park, for example, out-of-town visitors contributed more than $8 million to the local economy in 2010, supporting more than 130 jobs in the community.
Following the announcement, Secretary Salazar also attended a ribbon-cutting to unveil new exhibits at the Glendale Visitor Center. The center is located inside the historic lodge of the Glendale National Cemetery, which includes the final resting place for more than 1,200 Union soldiers, most of whom fought in the battles of Glendale and Malvern Hill. The first floor of the lodge was retrofitted to contain interpretive exhibits that highlight the stories of the Glendale and Malvern Hill battles.