Letter to the Editor: Footpaths open to public, not mountain bikes


This is in response to the letter from Hunter Haggerty that appeared in your March 4 edition: “We don’t need another museum.”

This letter is both untrue and misleading. And Haggerty knows it.

“SVBF has officially closed the trails at the Third Battlefield of Winchester site. This is truly a sad day for the area as it was a well used and valued site for bikers, runners, and walkers,” reports Haggerty.

All trails that were open three years ago, when SVBF assumed ownership and management of this 567-acre property, are still open. In fact, working with Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department, our current restoration, interpretation, and community resource project envisions miles of additional trails at Third Winchester, including multi-use (pedestrian and bicycle) and pedestrian use only. Construction of the pedestrian trails is underway.

What has been closed, however, is access by mountain bikes to unsanctioned footpaths through some of the most valuable historic resources at Third Winchester, including the defense lines occupied by Gen. John B. Gordon’s Georgia Division on that fateful afternoon of Sept. 19, 1864. While these footpaths will remain open to pedestrians, they are now closed to mountain bikes.

I know of no other managed battlefield park in the country where historic landscapes are open for indiscriminate use with bicycles. All but a few mountain bike enthusiasts have met with us and understand, albeit in many cases disappointedly, that an organization dedicated to battlefield preservation cannot allow a battlefield to be misused.

We look forward to seeing Hagerty, with his bike and sign, at the commemorative events scheduled for Sept. 19-20 at Third Winchester. He will be greeted by almost 100 Boy Scouts from three Winchester troops who have already donated almost 5,000 hours of their time working on restoring the battlefield while working on individual Eagle Scout projects, the 160 students from Millbrook, Sherando, and James Wood high schools who have donated over 1,000 service hours to restoration and interpretation, and the many businesses, individuals and granting organizations who have also shared their resources to help us return this sacred place to the historic venue and community resource it deserves to be.

Denman Zirkle, executive director
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation