Former golf course will become outdoor classroom offering university students hands-on experience in outdoor leadership and education, history and environmental studies; public will retain access to scenic property
This morning, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech joined representatives of the Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University to celebrate the successful completion of a public-private partnership to permanently protect 195 acres along the Shenandoah River that played a crucial role in the July 18, 1864, Battle of Cool Spring. The event was part of the Commonwealth’s celebration of Earth Week 2013 and highlighted the project’s unique intersection of environmental benefit, educational opportunity and economic growth potential.
“I can think of no better way to honor the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring the protection and care of our state’s natural resources this Earth Week than by celebrating our partnership to conserve this site,” said Secretary Domenech. “With its sweeping views of the Virginia countryside, Shenandoah River access and historic pedigree, this land will be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come.”
Virginia Director of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick agreed, adding, “Through this preservation partnership, the Cool Spring Battlefield will be far more than a passive historic site — this land is poised to become a dynamic, multi-faceted learning environment that will enhance educational opportunities in a variety of fields.”
Protection of the Cool Spring site was made possible through generous, competitively awarded preservation matching grants from both the federal and state governments. The American Battlefield Protection Program, administered by the National Park Service, contributed $200,000 toward the $2 million total purchase price, while the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund — the most successful state level grant program of its kind in the nation — put forward another $800,000. Remaining funding was secured through a significant landowner donation and contributions from Trust members.
“Thanks to the vision of the elected officials in Washington and Richmond, the Trust is able to help ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to visit beautiful and historic sites like Cool Spring undisturbed by inappropriate modern intrusions,” said Trust President James Lighthizer.
In 2012, the Civil War Trust negotiated to acquire the 195-acre former Virginia National Country Club following its bankruptcy. Recognizing the site’s unique potential as a community resource, the Trust began investigating a variety of partnership opportunities for long-term stewardship of the battlefield, before settling on what Lighthizer calls the “perfect solution” — transferring the property to Shenandoah University.
“Shenandoah University is honored to be entrusted with the care of such an historically and ecologically significant landscape,” said Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “We pride ourselves in educating students who are, by nature, curious and eager to explore the world around them. I am thrilled that the Cool Spring property will provide them with a living laboratory to enrich their lives and learning.”
The university is currently evaluating options and developing proposals for specific programming to take place at the Cool Spring site. The property and surrounding environment has the potential to serve as an experiential learning campus for academic programs in the fields of outdoor leadership and education, environmental studies and history.
In addition, numerous possibilities are being considered to integrate the campus community as a whole through opportunities developed and implemented by Shenandoah University’s Division of Student Life. These co-curricular pieces are fundamental for enhancing a connection to the region, while promoting environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the Cool Spring site will afford local schools and the public at large with opportunities to explore the region through historical and natural interpretation.
The news conference culminated with the ceremonial transfer of the property from the Civil War Trust to Shenandoah University, witnessed by Domenech, Kilpatrick and Clarke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert.
“In Clarke County we believe our land is our legacy,” said Hobert. “We are pleased so many others share our vision for the preservation of historic and environmental resources and grateful for their cooperative efforts which now add to this legacy.”
Although the property will be owned by Shenandoah University, it will remain subject to the terms of a conservation easement held by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. This legal agreement will allow the university to pursue a wide range of educational opportunities and endeavors, while ensuring that the historic nature of the site is respected through the prevention of unsuitable or invasive development.
Following the defeat of his raid on Washington, D.C., at the Battle of Fort Stevens, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early retreated, crossing the Potomac River at White’s Ferry and the Blue Ridge at Snickers Gap. Elements of three U.S. corps — about 25,000 men — under overall command of Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright pursued and met Early’s rear guard at the Shenandoah River crossing of Snickers Ferry, near the farm of Cool Spring. Although brief in duration, the July 18, 1864, Battle of Cool Spring was desperately fought, checking the federal pursuit for several days. The Battle of Cool Spring (also known as Island Ford, Parker’s Ford, Snickers Ferry or Castleman’s Ferry) resulted in more than 800 casualties and was a prelude to the second major battle at Kernstown, which occurred less than a week later.
Although its campaign to protect the land at Cool Spring has concluded, the Civil War Trust is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Brandy Station, Va., Chancellorsville, Va., Fredericksburg, Va., Glendale/Malvern Hill, Va., and Gettysburg, Pa. To learn more about current fundraising projects and its ambitious sesquicentennial preservation effort, Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy, please visit www.civilwar.org/campaign150.