Park projects, programs to expand during centennial year

MIDDLETOWN – Members of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park’s Advisory Council previewed 2016 plans for the park at a meeting on Thursday.

Many preparations and developments ride on the tide of the National Park Service’s Centennial this year.

Karen Beck-Herzog told the commission that the park is working with a regional staffer to draw up a park foundation document, which gives an overview of the park for planning purposes. She said the commission would attend a large meeting in the summer to discuss the document’s contents.

“We’re going to be looking at, what are those primary resources and values,” she said. “Many of those key resources and values are not owned by the National Park Service and they’re in a partnership.”

“This task was really much less urgent here … because we have such a recent GMP (general management plan),” added Jim Northup, designated federal officer and park superintendent.

He said much of the material in the plan would be directly translated over into the document.

Beck-Herzog said the second part of the document is the dynamic portion that describes the needs and commitments of the park. She said the information and priorities written there will help the park compete for project money. Work on that section of the document will also serve as a refresher on material in the 2010 plan.

“It gives us all an opportunity to go back and to make sure we’re on the same page,” she said after the meeting.

Beck-Herzog said that after the positive turnout at last year’s Star Party, the park will be hosting three of the events this year. One will coincide with the Perseid meteor shower.

In the way of new programming, Beck-Herzog said the park will hold a free weekend of events devoted to Vermont’s role in the battle. From June 24-26, attendees could catch programming like living history reenactors from Vermont and a rededication of the Vermont monument.

In celebration of the centennial, she said the park will discuss incorporating the anniversary as part of its returning events.

Through the centennial year, Beck-Herzog said the park be working to expand and create new trails for more interpretation around the Battle of Cedar Creek. She said that as soon as a cooperative agreement with Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation is approved, work on a Thoburn Trail project can begin. Likewise, she said cooperative agreements with Belle Grove and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club are in progress.

Kristen Laise updated the commission about the new exhibit starting at Belle Grove Plantation when it opens this weekend. New interpretive panels will give visitors further information about Belle Grove slaves and their quarters. She said information was drawn from recent research and archaeological findings.

“This research is ongoing … it seems like every week we have another breakthrough of some level,” she said.

Beck-Herzog said that slavery would be an interpretive theme to include on the park’s foundation document.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com