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By Amber Marra -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation is interested in purchasing the "Island Farm" property in Strasburg.
The foundation signed an option to buy for the property on Tuesday from the Island Farm's current owner, Doug Boyd, according to John Hutchinson, director of preservation and planning with the battlefields foundation. The option secures the property, which is adjacent to Cedar Creek, for six months while the foundation conducts a feasibility study on what it calls a "protection effort," according to a memo provided by Hutchinson. The study will cost between $40,000 and $60,000, it says.
"We have signed an option to buy with the owner that will allow us to do appraisals of the property and explore its value and what it might mean to protect it," Hutchinson said.
According to Hutchinson, the feasibility study will "really explore all aspects" of the Island Farm property by looking at its financial, conservation and historic value.
The memo goes on to explain that the foundation is interested in the property because it "embodies many of the characteristics that make Shenandoah County what it is."
Although not a Civil War battlefield, the property has historical significance, it says.
The site helped guide Civil War combat in surrounding battlefields and can "contribute greatly to one's ability to understand the battle today," the memo says.
The Island Farm also could be important to the foundation's effort to build trails connecting Strasburg, Shenandoah National Park and the Fishers Hill battlefield area because of its location near the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.
Prior to the foundation's interest, the Island Farm had been slated for a controversial housing development.
The Strasburg Town Council voted to rezone the property in 2006, but many in the community have voiced fears that it would be subject to flooding.
According to the foundation memo, Boyd bought the property and adjacent sections of the Madison Heights subdivision in 2002, and has since sold 30 acres.
Boyd did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Along with the town, the foundation has gotten approval from Shenandoah County to begin assembling a coalition of groups to start raising funds to aid the project.
The groups listed in the memo include the Virginia Departments of Conservation and Recreation, Historic Resources, and Transportation; Belle Grove; First Bank; the National Park Service; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Potomac Conservancy; the Trust for Public Land; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and its Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Since the foundation had just signed the option on Tuesday, only Strasburg and First Bank had been contacted to put up money for the study, Hutchinson said.
First Bank has offered $5,000 toward the protection effort, and the council agreed to contribute up to $15,000 after meeting in closed session at its Nov. 9 meeting, according to acting Town Manager Judson Rex and Mayor Tim Taylor.
The foundations is "going to look at the possible ways it can be handled and head it up by using their people," Taylor said.
Hutchinson added that the foundation has not yet approached the county about a contribution, but has taken most of the members of the Board of Supervisors to the property.