by James Ivancic, Bull Run Observer

19 October 2007, pp 3-4

“Developers, preservationists and government can find ways to work together to achieve their goals and do something for the public good.  That was the theme when representatives of all three entities came together on Oct. 12 to celebrate the grand opening of Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park.

“The 133-acre site, locate just off Bristow Road, south of VA 28, has been preserved to commemorate a Civil War battle fought there on Oct. 14, 1863, that ended in a Union victory.

“The site is adjacent a new residential and commercial development built by Centex Homes.  On March 19, 2002, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow Centex to develop Bristow Village, a site consisting of mixed residential dwellings and office and commercial space.

“Acreage was set aside to hand over for free to Civil War Preservation Trust.  Two years later, supervisors approved Centex’s application to rezone an additional 13.9 acres to build 51 single-family detached dwellings.  There are now 700 dwellings on the site.

“Many of the speakers who gathered at the ceremonial opening of the battlefield reflected on the fact that by working together, all sides with an interest in the property achieved something.

“James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, called it ‘an extraordinary partnership.’  He explained the Trust is a 65,000-member organization that works to preserve battlefields.  It has saved 17,000 acres of battlefields in 16 states.

” ‘We get into a hell of a lot of fights with builders and developers.  It doesn’t have to be that way,’ he said.  He cited the preservation of the Bristoe Station battlefield as an example of a unconventional approach that had a happy ending.  Lighthizer lavished praise on Centex, calling it an ‘exception.  They have a corporate conscience.’  He praised Prince William officials saying, ‘Not all counties are this progressive.’

“He said the Trust would not have been able to purchase the Bristoe Station Battlefield to preserve it.  The coming to terms with Centex over rezoning the land for development took no more than 15 minutes, Lighthizer said.  ‘I’ve fought two years for smaller pieces of land.’

“The end result was that Centex has created a ‘high-quality development with a front yard of about 130 acres,’ he said, referring to the open space the battlefield represents.  ‘This is hallowed ground here,’  Lighthizer said.  ‘(Gen. Robert E.) Lee said, “let us bury our dead and say no more about it.”  This is sacred ground.  Soldiers are buried here.’

“Other speakers at opening of the battlefield included Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and Brentsville District Supervisor Wally Covington.

“Covington noted the ceremony was taking place nearly 144 years to the day on which the Union and the Confederates fought over the site.  It was farmland for many years both before and after the Civil War, he noted.  The 20th century saw fights to preserve Civil War battlefield, but Covington called the compromise reached over Bristoe Station a ‘pioneering’ agreement.  He called on people to stay involved in efforts to preserve the land.

“Stewart recounted some of the details of the Civil war battle that happened just a few months after the Battle of Gettysburg.  He said Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill approached what he thought was a small force of Union troops, only to be surprised by a larger force massed by the nearby railroad tracks.  The Minnesota-born supervisor noted the involvement of troops from his native state.  ‘You don’t want to mess with Minnesota,’ he said.

“The agreement with Centex preserves an area with ponds, wetlands and a forest so that the battlefield site is both a natural and cultural resource, Stewart said.  It has 2.7 miles of walking trails, and the park will be open to the public from dawn to dusk all year.

“Dave Rettew, the company’s director of community development, represented Centex at the grand opening.  He said working together with Prince William County and the Civil War Preservation Trust was indeed a ‘unique partnership.  It is a true model for preservation.’  Although each side came to the table with different goals and agendas, ‘Together we were able to create a win-win for everybody involved,’ he said.

“David Bon is the site manager at the Bristoe Station Battlefield. He said the site can be enjoyed both by those interested in the Civil War and by those who want to walk its trails and enjoy the natural surroundings.  He hopes an additional small parcel of land by the railroad tracks can be acquired.  Federal troops were on that portion of land.  He’d also like to see a small visitor center/museum created in a house now standing on the battle site.  Bron said the Bristoe site is known for another event.  Two years before the October 1863 battle, typhoid swept through the camps of Confederate soldiers here, following the First Battle of Manassas in 1861.  Born said he’d like to incorporate details of that event into the interpretive presentations at the site.

“The grand opening ceremony included a cemetery tour, led by a representative of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and a battlefield tour led by the Bull Run Civil War Roundtable. Events scheduled for the following two days, Oct.13 and 14, included demonstrations by Civil War reenactors.”