18 May 2011 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 14 comments

The Brandy Station Foundation published this policy on its web site today in response to the Lake Troilo incident:

BRANDY STATION POSITION
LANDOWNER IMPROVEMENTS AND AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES

The strategic goals of the Brandy Station Foundation include “Preserv[ing] and protect[ing] the Brandy Station and Kelly’s Ford Battlefields and related sites of historical significance for the appreciation and education of future generations.”

The Foundation does not support commercial or residential development on historic battlefield property, and in the past has opposed developers before governmental agencies and in the courts. This last occurred in 2005 when Golden Oaks, a development company, purchased eighteen acres on the western approach to Fleetwood Hill with the intent of subdividing the land and building a dozen dwellings. In that endeavor the Foundation was successful and the Golden Oaks tract is now protected.

However, in pursuing our goals, we are mindful that landowners have certain rights with regard to the property that they own. As a result, we believe that it is generally not productive to officially oppose common property improvements, particularly when those improvements are reversible. Also, we do not oppose landowners who conduct agricultural activities on battlefield property. We freely acknowledge that such improvements and agricultural actions may be contrary to the personal views of some of our members and supporters.

Frequently landowners are required to obtain permits before making improvements or undertaking certain agricultural activities. We view the permit process primarily as an issue between the landowner and the governmental agency exercising legal or regulatory authority over the matter. However, the Board of Directors is prepared to consider each matter individually, and to provide the Brandy Station Foundation’s official position to the appropriate governmental agency if warranted.

We of the Brandy Station Foundation believe that all people, even those whose opinions or actions we may disagree with, should be treated with courtesy and respect.

Board of Directors
Brandy Station Foundation
May 16, 2011

Mr. McKinney has told several of the former board members that he believes that the wonton destruction caused by the digging of Lake Troilo is “reversible”. How it’s possible to reverse that sort of damage–after the dirt has been turned, the artifacts dug up, etc., is a complete and total mystery to me.

Never mind that this policy expressly contradicts the organization’s stated mission statement, which is: “Our goal is to ensure the history and heritage of the area is not ‘paved over’ in our rush to progress.” It seems to me that not opposing development of core battlefield land like Lake Troilo is directly in conflict and in contradiction of the stated mission of the organization. In short, it is nothing more than a complete abrogation of the stated mission–and sacred duty–of the organization, all in the interest of appeasement.

Can you say “sell out”, boys and girls?

The whole agricultural thing is a dodge–the original spinning of Lake Troilo was that it was to be expanded for agricultural purposes, but that’s utter horse hockey.

So much for the Brandy Station Foundation as a legitimate battlefield preservation organization. Let’s play taps for what used to be a great organization that used to do great preservation work before it decided that appeasement was the best course of action. By publishing this wrong-headed and ill-advised policy statement, it has officially lost all credibility as a preservation organization and should immediately lose the support of LEGITIMATE preservation organizations like the Civil War Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, or the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. dan
    Wed 18th May 2011 at 8:17 pm

    A “preservationist” is an advocate for those who can no longer advocate for themselves; they are advocates for the historic sites themselves. They are in a sense caretakers, and protectors. People who take a position of moral and ethical right cannot be friends to all. Certainly, some landowners will be discommoded and annoyed, if not entirely blocked in their purposes, by the actions of proper preservationists functioning according to their purposes and promises. It is a terrible blow to all Civil War students, especially during the sesquicentennial, that the BSF has failed so extraordinarily to protect Fleetwood Hill, choosing instead to support a landowner’s “right” (according to them) to do with this hallowed ground whatever he/she so chooses. These events mark a staggering failure of the BSF, and an apparent deep confusion among their leadership as to their purpose. As a Civil War student for many years, and an American who loves the great heroes of my country and who wants to see the places that they made so crucial to future generations and forever important saved, I am horrified and disappointed beyond description.

  2. Todd Berkoff
    Wed 18th May 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Can anyone imagine LEGITIMATE historic preservation groups like The Civil War Trust, the Friends of the Wilderness, Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, the Richmond Battlefield Association, etc., (I can go on…) siding with the “rights” of landowners to do whatever they wish on their property regardless of local, state, and federal regulations?? No way.

    I’m not surprised by this cowardly policy paper that in essence tells the world that the BSF will not stand in the way of threats to battlefield property, whether those threats are from big corporations wishing to build more homes or a Wal-Mart or threats from local citizens–like Mr. Troilo–who feel they are above the law and only “apologize” when caught red-handed by state and federal authorities.

    I’m concerned for the future. BSF–this pathetic excuse for a preservation group–will be rolling over for whatever any one person, corporation, home construction company, or VDOT entity that wants to do build their version of a history theme park, 200 more homes on Fleetwood Hill, or slice off a section of Hansborough Ridge to widen Route 3.

    Thankfully, the BSF is a non-player now…and people who TRULY are “dedicated to preseving the natural and historic resources of the Brandy Station area…” (Taken directly from the BSF’s mission statement) are the ones left to carry the flag and do YOUR job.

  3. Billy
    Wed 18th May 2011 at 11:17 pm

    ” By publishing this wrong-headed and ill-advised policy statement, it has officially lost all credibility as a preservation organization and should immediately lose the support of LEGITIMATE preservation organizations like the Civil War Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, or the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation.”

    E, I’m a little scared of the above as it allows the current regime to go rogue with no checks and balances beyond that supplied by Federal law. In North Carolina talk, it’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Sheesh, I haven’t renewed my memberships to various Indian Wars preservation groups and now I’m commintting to save Virginians? Oh well, we lived in Richmond for over a year and it was great. I’ll look for their web site tomorrow and join,

    What selfish idiots.

    Billy

  4. Chris Shelton
    Thu 19th May 2011 at 9:24 am

    “Frequently landowners are required to obtain permits before making improvements or undertaking certain agricultural activities. We view the permit process primarily as an issue between the landowner and the governmental agency exercising legal or regulatory authority over the matter.”

    Wow. Their policy almost sounds reasonable (and to most “lay” people, it probably does.) However, I extracted one portion above.
    If they really believe that, the LEAST they could have done is to do what Bud Hall did…pass along what was happening on Troilo’s land to the Army Corp of Engineers to make sure that proper permits were obtained and in order. At the very least, McKinney was negligent to allow this to happen under his watch. Troilo, meanwhile, seemed to be playing some Alfred E. Neuman innocence card, “What, me worry?”

    One wonders if things would have been different had the President not been friends with the landowner. The BSF couldn’t have done less than they did in this case, but would they have done more (anything?)

    In my eyes, a TRUE preservation organization would do everything, within the law and common sense, to preserve vital, hallowed ground…especially core battlefield land.

  5. Thu 19th May 2011 at 9:57 am

    I honestly think that McKinney knew well in advance that this would happen and that Troilo helped him get his post, mutual back-scratching ensured.

  6. Chuck
    Thu 19th May 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Why the statement was written: Joe Mckinney, BSF President, is friends with Tony Troilo, despoiler of Fleetwood Hill. He wants everyone to know BSF won’t pick on poor Tony as he destroys the core portion of the Brandy Station Battlefield.

    The board of BSF are spineless individuals for allowing this to be posted after decades of clear statements and actions for preserving the battlefield.

    For all the fancy gobbldy-gook they spewed this change in policy simply lets everyone know it’s OK with them if folks that own historic properties destroy it as they see fit.

    It doesn’t really matter that certain properties are protected with easements or within historic districts with regulations and responsibilities in place governing any changes….to BSF they basically say “go ahead and just do as you feel.” Pollute your neighbor’s property downstream, no problem. Don’t let any silly law stop you.

    The stupidity of these people is unbelievable.
    I don’t see how anyone can support that organization any further.

  7. Chris Evans
    Thu 19th May 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Wow. Absolutely spineless position taken by the board.
    Chris

  8. Andrew German
    Fri 20th May 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Hello Eric,

    Thanks for keeping us informed about this situation.

    I regret that in the press of daily responsibilities, and in my gut faith in Bud Hall’s combination of battlefield knowledge and firm moral suasion, I let my membership in the BSF lapse.

    While I don’t think there is negotiation value in embarrassing an individual for a decision that compromises the values and influence of the organization he represents, I do think this situation calls for a clear statement of principals by the BSF. What we got was a surrender of suasion; a politically correct statement that the organization will only press to preserve battlefield segments for public benefit that don’t conflict with narrow private interests.

    The issue reflects the national debate about the Constitution: is it designed to promote the interests of the people as a whole or protect the interests of individual people? We thought the BSF was representing “we the people,” who’s states fought there and who’s concept of this nation as one or two was partially decided on those fields, an organization that advocated for the ground as a national treasure. However, this decision suggests it has pulled back from that role simply to protect its former gains and to take an obsequious rather than an influential position with its neighbors.

    I was about to renew my membership and to convey the results of my study of the Fleetwood Hill portion of the battle, but now I’m not sure the organization is seriously interested in either the mission or the message.

    Tallyho!
    Andrew German

  9. John Hennessy
    Sat 21st May 2011 at 11:56 pm

    “Frequently landowners are required to obtain permits before making improvements or undertaking certain agricultural activities. We view the permit process primarily as an issue between the landowner and the governmental agency exercising legal or regulatory authority over the matter.”

    While anyone may choose to view the permit process as an issue between the landowner and the agency, the law in play here–Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act–views it VERY differently. The law REQUIRES the permitting agency (in this case the Corps) to seek the input of the public in its review of projects. The law is written to encourage precisely the sort of public input that BSF has apparently eschewed.

    Preservation groups have very few legal tools at hand to accomplish preservation; section 106 is by far the most useful. The idea that a preservation organization would publicly proclaim its intent NOT to use the major legal tool at its disposal might well be unprecedented.

  10. Mike Stevens
    Sun 22nd May 2011 at 9:17 am

    Surely no one who understands what this ground means to us and to our country would allow its destruction and desecration without standing up and saying, “No!”

    Surely any battlefield preservation organization with its priorities straight would do the same.

    It appears that the only positive thing stemming from this unfortunate incident is to show how a preservation organization should NOT act.

    Mike Stevens
    Central Virginia Battlefields Trust

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