STRASBURG – The Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation announced a new conservation project on Friday.
Keven Walker, the foundation’s CEO, told a crowd gathered in the shade on Hupp’s Hill that a partnership struck between the foundation and two landowners has paved the way for a major conservation project at Cedar Creek.
Byron Brill and his wife Kathy Kanter donated part of their property to the foundation, creating an opportunity to protect 72 acres in the heart of the battlefield, Walker said.
The foundation has already preserved more acreage at Cedar Creek than any other entity, Walker said, but this central piece will help connect those pockets of protected land.
“In the coming years, this will not only allow this piece of hallowed ground to be protected and preserved,” Walker said. “It will also provide an interpretive link so that from Route 11 all the way to the Shenandoah River, you will be able to traverse the land the soldiers traversed.”
Walker said fundraising to protect Cedar Creek is hard for the foundation because federal money is designated to help protect non-park service areas. Cedar Creek, Walker said, falls inside one of those restricted areas, preventing the foundation from leaning on funding it uses for its projects.
Kanter said the historic importance of her property dawned on her about four years ago when she camped out on it.
“It’s a special place,” she said. “It needs to be shared.”
Brill said the donation helped give him some peace of mind about what will happen to his property down the road. He was on the Belle Grove board for years, he said, so his connection with the historic property has deep roots. Protecting and preserving the land is part of what he enjoys doing, he said, noting that the partnership with the foundation is a godsend.
Because Cedar Creek is protected and privately owned, Brill said the connection is made easier with reenactments — feats not allowed on national park land.
“It’s a feeling of disbelief,” Brill said about treading the paths reenactors take. “You are walking with them. It is an unbelievable sense of almost experiencing that same thing.”