With the completion of the recent legislative session, the Virginia legislature has made the most significant investment in battlefield preservation since the creation of the Virginia Battlefield Protection Fund in 2010.
As a part of the biennial budget, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District (NHD) will receive $4.75 million dollars, over the next two years, to promote heritage tourism, increase public access to preserved lands, and improve the visitor experience at previously preserved battlefield sites throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) CEO Kevin Walker, head of the entity that manages the National Historic District, calls it “an unprecedented and unparalleled investment in battlefield parks and battlefield tourism, one that will benefit the citizens on Virginia for decades to come.”
The funds will help SVBF develop seven new battlefield parks, totaling 1,731 acres, across four counties. Planned improvements will include highway signage, parking, trailheads, restrooms, interpretive signage, completion of the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, and the creation of the New Market History and Education Center, among other projects.
Battlefield parks included in SVBF’s work will include Second Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, Tom’s Brook, New Market, Cross Keys, Port Republic, and McDowell. Battlefields that will see new services will include Third Winchester, Cedar Creek, and Piedmont.
The appropriation is a one-time expenditure that is expected to create a long-term economic benefit. The new parks will create increased visitation opportunities for heritage tourism, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Based on an independent study conducted by the National Park Service, the NHD generates $291.3 million in annual economic impact through tourism. Based on the current economic impact, the appropriation is expected to generate a more than 600 to 1 return over the next ten years.
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