Governor announces battlefield preservation grant winners

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks Tuesday afternoon during the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation announcement of the preservation of the 70-acre Gordon's Hill site. Rich Cooley/Daily


FISHER’S HILL — Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited Gordon’s Hill, part of Fisher’s Hill Battlefield, Tuesday to announce the recipients of the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Awards.

One of those recipients was the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, which is based in New Market; the Richmond Battlefield Association, the Civil War Trust and the Manassas Battlefield Trust also received awards.

During the ceremony, McAuliffe described battlefield preservation funding as a good investment, saying that the Commonwealth of Virginia earned $290 million from the 150th Civil War anniversary.

“Folks, that is a good investment on our money,” McAuliffe said.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe listens as North Fork Middle School student Angel Olmeda Vellon,13, speaks during the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation preservation event Tuesday. Angel and his classmates are part of the school's Civil War Roundtable group. Rich Cooley/Daily

The matching grant award allows battlefield groups in Virginia to purchase land or easements for land for the purpose of preserving it, Randy Jones, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said in an interview Friday.

According to Keven Walker, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the foundation plans on dividing the grant money between several properties, including the Fisher’s Hill Battlefield.

In all, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is doling out $1 million this year for the grant, McAuliffe said. That number is consistent with previous years’ figures.

Speaking with the mountains in the background, Walker said that historic preservation does more than help states economically.

“We have saved not only a battlefield (at Fisher’s Hill) but some of Virginia’s beauty,” Walker said. “Some of what makes Virginia, Virginia.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, chats with Keven M. Walker, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, after the group's preservation event Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Walker’s focus on maintaining the beauty of the land stuck with Roland England, a resident who grew up in his grandparents’ house toward the bottom of the Gordon Hill property.

England said that, as a farmer, he was glad to see that the land would not be turned into a housing development.

“I believe in farming and preservation,” England said. “It’s really nice to see the land will be preserved.”

In his speech, Walker praised McAuliffe for his work preserving battlefields.

“There is no other state in the union who has been as committed to battlefield preservation as the Commonwealth of Virginia, and there has been no other’s governor’s administration who has done more to keep that torch lit than Gov. McAuliffe, so we give him a round of applause.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, speaks with Scott Marsh, of Winchester, on Tuesday at the Gordon's Hill site on Fisher's Hill. Rich Cooley/Daily

Walker finished his speech by bringing up the current political environment and debates surrounding the fate of Confederate monuments.

“We need to be building up the heroes of our past–not tearing down the monuments and the memories of our proud heritage,” Walker said. “We have a lot to be proud of as Americans. And one of the things we have to be proud of, maybe above all others, is despite our flaws and our faults, despite the errant ways and ideas of our ancestors, despite it all, the best and brightest of who we are has shown through at this very moment.”