Will Petersburg soon be home to the largest Civil War battlefield in the country? It will if Senators Warner and Kaine get their way. Their proposal calls for the National Park Service to acquire an additional 7,000 acres that otherwise, could be lost to development.
When you have history sitting in your own backyard, why not do all you can to preserve it? That's what rangers at the Petersburg Battlefield are saying, praising new efforts for expansion.
Sitting on 2700 acres of land, the Petersburg Battlefield is only a fraction of what the National Park Service feels it should be.
"The land increase would be significant to say the least," said Chris Bryce with the Petersburg Battlefield.
Add an additional 7000 acres to this historic site and park rangers say they can better tell the stories that played out right here in the mid 1800s.
"We have a real opportunity to expand on lands that we already have but also to better tell the story, a complete story of what happened in Petersburg over nine and a half months," Bryce added.
Both Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are on board. This week, they introduced a bill to make the vision a reality. It's a second attempt after similar legislation failed to pass two years ago in Congress. Visitors at the park are welcoming it.
"I like that we have so many national parks that explore these things and preserve a lot of these historical items," said Andrew Carmichael.
If it passes, the park service says you could expect more trails and markers highlighting significant events - as opposed to commercialization.
"Battlefields that are closer to more urbanized areas, [like] Washington, D.C., a lot of those are now underneath shopping malls, housing developments where here in Petersburg, we're still left with the battlefields that are very much intact," Bryce said.
He says they're not only intact, but also ready to be shared with the nation.
"To have the ability to come 150 years after the event and stand on the very same ground these soldiers walked over, slept on, died on, that's one of the biggest takeaways," he said.
Perhaps the timing couldn't be any better. Next year, the park will commemorate 150 years since the Siege of Petersburg, and rangers are hoping that momentum will pave the way for progress
The Petersburg battlefield pumps some $11 million into the local economy.
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