New trails to open at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove

Eric Campbell, chief of interpretation for Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, looks at the monument commemorating the fallen members of the 8th Vermont regiment. The trail leading to the monument is one of three new Morning Attack Trails to open Saturday. Nathan Budryk/Daily

MIDDLETOWN — Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park will open three new trails on Saturday to coincide with National Trails Day.

The trails, to be called the Morning Attack Trails, will bring visitors through the battlefield where Confederate troops, at the command of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, launched a successful surprise attack in the early morning hours of October 19, 1864. The trails will be called the 8th Vermont Monument Trail, the Thomas Bridge Loop Trail and the Hayes-Ramseur Loop.

The new trails are a big step for the young park, which was established in 2002, said Eric Campbell, chief of interpretation at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove.

“It’s really important,” Campbell said. “One thing that people expected when the park service got here was we would start putting in infrastructure that visitors would expect to find in a national park. When you go to a National Park, you expect to see a visitor’s center; you expect to see restrooms and public roads.”

Campbell explained how the new trails will enable the public to see more of where the battle, which was the civil war’s second largest in the Shenandoah Valley, took place.

“Considering right now how little of the park is actually accessible to the public; other than this trail, there’s only one other trail that’s on one of our partner properties – the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation – and even that’s only .6 miles long, so out and back it’s 1.2 miles.”

Good things are coming, but we’re still lacking trails, Campbell said.

“So this is an important step for us because it’s our first real trail of any length that opens up a part of the battlefield that visitors before now have never had access to,” he added.

Campbell noted that the new trails will open about 60 acres of previously inaccessible areas on their near 1 1/2-miles of routes.

In addition to public accessibility, Campbell said the trails will help increase interaction between visitors and the park itself, as the park begins to offer more options to those who visit.

“This is really important for us because it’s showing progress as a national park in giving visitors more of what they expect,” he said, explaining how the National Park Service opened a visitor contact station in 2013. It’s located at 7712 Main St. in Middletown.

“[The visitor contact station offers] displays, exhibits, orientation — there’s that fiber optic map we have there that has the battlefield in miniature; three dimensional with lights and a narration,” Campbell said.

Campbell said that a few buildings on the trails, including an old farm built after the war, will be razed to present the land as it was at the time of the battle as best as it possibly can. Additionally, modern fencing in the area will be removed and replaced with fences of a more historically compatible nature.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove are offering a full complement of ranger programs, tours and activities throughout the summer, including the History at Sunset series that will run from June to October. More information is available at https://www.nps.gov/cebe/index.htm.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com