Opposition to utility scale solar on historic land

In October 2018 the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Greenwood Solar, now a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, for a 1000 acre utility scale solar project straddling Batna Road south of Route 3 in the county’s Stevensburg district. As of mid-July 2020, the 100 megawatt project is in the site plan stage of review by the Planning Commission as well as state Permit By Rule review.

This industrial scale project is placed squarely in an area of historical significance to the Civil War, with Brandy Station battlefield to the north and Morton’s Ford battlefield to the south. The project area and the Area of Potential Effect around the project area saw many troop movements and encampments, including the Winter encampment of more than 100,000 Union troops during 1863-1864. The project is bounded on one side by the Old Carolina Road, a historic byway dating to the pre-Colonial era. Notable properties adjacent include 19th century Rose Hill on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, and 18th century Salubria, also on the National Register of Historic Properties. Both are within the project’s Area of Potential Effect.

After being awarded an American Battlefield Protection Plan grant in May 2020 to study the Rapidan Front and winter encampment area where the project is planned to be located, FCMB’s board has come out strongly in opposition to the solar project. Installation of more than 300,000 solar panels will obliterate the cultural landscape, negatively impacting grant study efforts.

Since early May, the board of Friends of Cedar Mountain has communicated with the county Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, Planning and Zoning director and town administrator to share the following:

  1. Our application for a grant to study the Civil War’s Rapidan Front including the 1863-1864 encampment.
  2. The awarding of the grant in the amount of $86,700.
  3. A map of our grant study area with a superimposed image of the Greenwood Solar project clearly showing the “integrity hole” the solar project would create in the solar project landscape.

Culpeper County outlined in orange; Friends of Cedar Mountain grant study area in yellow; Greenwood Solar 1000-acre utility scale solar project in green

In each of these communications the FCMB board asked for a stay on the project pending completion of the grant.

Board representatives also have attended two Planning Commission meetings. Board representative Karen Boushie was present at the Planning Commission’s July 8, 2020 work session on the project (no public comment period was available). She and board member Brad Forbush attended the Planning Commission’s August 12, 2020 meeting. In the public comment period during the August meeting, Boushie reviewed the board’s previous correspondence with the commission and again asked for a hold on the project until the grant can be completed. She also noted:

“Communications from Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources support a hold on Greenwood Solar to allow full pursuit of area study. We cite the DHR letter dated May 7, 2019 that responds to the solar project architectural survey. This DHR letter refers to 9 resources that “could contribute to a historic district that does not yet exist due to a lack of context studies.” Our grant will provide the needed context studies.

The same DHR letter also recommends additional surveys be done at a property at the Batna/Algonquin crossroads and at Mountain View Farm – these two areas also are within the scope of our grant.”

In her comments, Boushie also asked for confirmation that the Commission had received the cultural assessment that is part of the developer’s permit by rule application, saying, “A reading of this report confirms that the area merits the deeper research that our grant will support.”

Board member Brad Forbush submitted a statement via email. His email was misplaced by the Planning and Zoning office and will be read into the record at the Commission’s September meeting. In a brief statement, Forbush reviewed the widespread interest in Culpeper’s history as evidenced by the number of tours he gives to visitors from many different states. These include, California, Hawaii, Kansas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and of course, Virginia.

Anyone who would like to send a comment about the project to the Planning Commission before their next meeting on September 9 may do so by following these instructions for email, voicemail and postal mail submissions.

Guided battlefield tour

Join Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) for a guided walking tour of the battlefield on Saturday, September 12 or Saturday, October 10 at 10:00 am. This tour is open to all ages to learn about the August 9, 1862 encounter in which Confederate troops led by General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson prevailed over Federal troops led by General Nathaniel Banks at a cost of 3800 men killed or wounded.

Please note that physical distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged in accordance with current CDC and state guidelines for safety. The group will be limited to 10 participants. If there are more than 10 participants, a second guide will be available.

The tour typically takes about 2 hours. Sturdy shoes, a water bottle, a hat and insect repellent are recommended.
Donation: A $10 donation to FCMB is requested.
Parking: Friends of Cedar Mountain Meeting House, 9465 General Winder Road, Rapidan, VA 22733.
Please direct any inquiries to info@friendsofcedarmountain.org or 540-727-8849.

Guided battlefield tour

Join Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) for a guided walking tour of the battlefield on Saturday, June 13 at 10:00 am. This tour is open to all ages to learn about the August 9, 1862 encounter in which Confederate troops led by General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson prevailed over Federal troops led by General Nathaniel Banks at a cost of 3800 men killed or wounded.

Please note that physical distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged in accordance with current CDC and state guidelines for safety. The group will be limited to 10 participants. If there are more than 10 participants, a second guide will be available.

The tour typically takes about 2 hours. Sturdy shoes, a water bottle, a hat and insect repellent are recommended.
Donation: A $10 donation to FCMB is requested.
Parking: Friends of Cedar Mountain Meeting House, 9465 General Winder Road, Rapidan, VA 22733.
Please direct any inquiries to info@friendsofcedarmountain.org or 540-727-8849.

Tour report: June 2020

It was a beautiful Spring day on Saturday, June 13, 2020, and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield had 7 visitors attend our first regularly scheduled guided tour of the season. After an introduction to the battle the guests divided into two groups. One went with guide Sam Pruett and followed the interpretive markers. Four more seasoned battlefield enthusiasts took to the woods to follow the Stonewall Brigade Trail to tell the story of the brigade’s clash with the six companies of the 3rd Wisconsin and the 46th Pennsylvania. Guide Brad Forbush also covered the approach of the 10th Virginia. The course path through the woods showed the difficult approach to the battle experienced by the Confederates on the left of Stonewall Jackson’s line. Included in the tour group was Mr. Bill Irby whose ancestor William Branch Coleman of the 21st Virginia, Company C, was mortally wounded in the battle. Emphasis on the ordeal of that regiment was given during the rest of the battlefield walk. At the end of the tour the group posed for pictures near where the regiment fought. Everyone enjoyed their visit and promised to return with friends. It was a great day on the battlefield for the guides and the guests.

Visitors are welcome to join us on our next scheduled guided tour on July 11 or explore on the trails on their own year-round. Our site has  information for self guided tours  including a walking route and trail map.

Guided battlefield tour

Join Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) for a guided walking tour of the battlefield on Saturday, June 13 at 10:00 am. This tour is open to all ages to learn about the August 9, 1862 encounter in which Confederate troops led by General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson prevailed over Federal troops led by General Nathaniel Banks at a cost of 3800 men killed or wounded.

Please note that physical distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged in accordance with current CDC and state guidelines for safety. The group will be limited to 10 participants. If there are more than 10 participants, a second guide will be available.

The tour typically takes about 2 hours. Sturdy shoes, a water bottle, a hat and insect repellent are recommended.
Donation: A $10 donation to FCMB is requested.
Parking: Friends of Cedar Mountain Meeting House, 9465 General Winder Road, Rapidan, VA 22733.
Please direct any inquiries to info@friendsofcedarmountain.org or 540-727-8849.

Culpeper Star Exponent: Interior Department funds Rapidan Front study in Culpeper

The article excerpted below was written by Clint Schemmer and published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on May 17, 2020. The article describes the awarding of a preservation grant to Friends of Cedar Mountain to support a cultural landscape assessment to study the nationally significant Civil War landscape along the Rapidan River front, extending north to the Union Winter Encampment area of 1863-1864 and the Cedar Mountain Battlefield. Visit starexponent.com to read the full article.

Excerpt:
The U.S. Department of the Interior is funding a study of Culpeper County’s “Rapidan Front” area of Civil War battlefields and historic sites.

The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, a local nonprofit group, will receive $86,740 to research Culpeper’s Racoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Sommerville Ford battlefields, sites that were fought over in 1863 and 1864 during the American Civil War.

The three battlefields and related historic sites, lie along the Rapidan River, which separated the Confederate and Union armies during that period.
Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt announced the grant Friday during a visit to Gettysburg National Military Park, part of a $3 million package of grants from the nation’s American Battlefield Protection Program.

“Battlefields such as Gettysburg are sacred sites where Americans gave the last full measure of devotion,” Bernhardt said. “These grants enable us to partner with communities and organizations to preserve these places and connect visitors with their historical importance.”

Culpeper County resident Diane Logan, president of the Cedar Mountain friends group, expressed its appreciation for the Interior Department’s support.

“The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield are thankful for the opportunity this grant award has given us,” Logan said Saturday. “We realize and appreciate the many layers of Culpeper’s rich Civil War history, and are excited at the prospect to explore, research and document events and historical sites that contribute to the full story of battle-torn Culpeper.”

Culpeper Star Exponent: Cedar Mountain group asks Culpeper to delay Greenwood solar project

The following article written by Clint Schemmer was published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on May 6, 2020. Please visit the article link or read below.

A long-established Culpeper-area citizens group has stepped into the fray over a 1,000-acre solar-energy facility planned near Stevensburg.

The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, steward of part of that 1862 Civil War site, is asking Culpeper leaders to delay the county’s consideration of the project until it can finish an ongoing historical study of the area proposed for solar development.

On Monday, the all-volunteer friends group wrote the Culpeper County Planning Commission and the county Board of Supervisors asking them to halt the Greenwood Solar project so it can continue its study and learn if it will receive a federal grant this fall.

Development of the Greenwood Solar plant, which the Board of Supervisors approved in late 2018, “would create an integrity hole in the center” of the friends’ study area that could jeopardize other sites from being recognized as historic, the group said.

In January, the friends applied to the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program for a grant to fund research on what it’s calling the Rapidan Front, largely undeveloped land where the battles of Raccoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Somerville Ford were fought and where elements of the Union army camped in the winter of 1863-64. The program is expected to announce its grant awards in August or September.

This study continues research begun in 2016 to identify threats to the Culpeper area’s nationally significant Civil War battlefields and cultural and agricultural landscapes, the friends said.

“If the (Greenwood) project proceeds as presented at this time without consideration to the historical and cultural value of the land it encompasses, it will render the area ineligible for National Register of HIstoric Places consideration not only for important Civil War sites but Colonial, African-American and Native American as well,” Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, told the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

The friends group was raising private funds for its research in advance of the ABPP grant, but the COVID- 19 pandemic has temporarily halted that effort, Logan wrote Culpeper officials. “But we are committed to proceeding with this project as soon as possible,” she told them.

“We urge Culpeper County officials to put a halt to all industrial-scale projects on agricultural land, specifically the sites impacted by our grant application,” Logan wrote the governing board and Planning Commission. “We cannot lose our historic landscape, including the Union Winter Encampment boundary. Once the land is gone, it is gone forever.”

The ABBP grant would finance research to develop and enhance Culpeper historical tours, including landscapes and venues, and support agriculture, Logan told the Star-Exponent.

The study would highlight the importance of farming in Culpeper then and now, she said.

“It is the oldest business in our county and the most sustainable, not only for the health and welfare of our citizens but for growth and development,” Logan said. “Not to mention, agriculture has preserved the beautiful vistas that we enjoy today.”

The Rapidan Front research is documenting the historic resources of the encampment and the Rapidan, Raccoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Somerville Ford battlefields, she said.

The project would open more resources for heritage tourism, a valuable industry that lures many visitors to Culpeper, and create economic development opportunities for small businesses such as campsites, water recreation and guided tours, the friends group wrote the boards’ members.

“FoCMB is aware of development threats to Culpeper’s historic landscape, particularly from potential industrial-scale solar facilities and housing development that would directly affect the outcome of the 2020 grant application,” it cautioned. “Such development would result in loss of landscape integrity that would render much of the Rapidan Front as no longer National Register-eligible.”

A newer Culpeper-area group that has been fighting industrial-scale solar development in Culpeper County praised the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s effort.

“Citizens for Responsible Solar applauds the efforts of Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield to preserve the land. We stand with them in opposing the development of this historic site beyond what it is zoned for, which is agriculture,” Citizens for Responsible Solar President Susan Ralston told the newspaper. “Industrial-scale solar has its place on land zoned for industrial use, marginal or contaminated land or land which is sparsely populated.

“The Greenwood Solar site is part of the land identified in the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s grant application and is already a well-documented historic treasure,” Ralston said.

In 2016, Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield met with its regional partners to discuss threats to Culpeper’s historic lands and identify priorities for preservation. Threats to its battlefield landscapes range from housing subdivisions to industrial-solar development to other utility projects, they determined. Looking forward, they set goals for heritage tourism, education, preservation and stewardship.

The Greenwood solar project was approved just before midnight on Oct. 2, 2018, after a three-hour public hearing. The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to grant a conditional-use permit for Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources to build and operate its utility-scale solar project on up to 1,000 acres near Stevensburg. NextEra acquired the project from Texas-based Greenwood Energy.

Historic photo donated to Friends of Cedar Mountain

We are grateful to local historian Clark B. Hall for his donation of a photo documenting President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1902 visit to Cedar Mountain Battlefield.

Journalist Clint Schemmer contributed an article about the gift in the February 12, 2020 edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent:

“A rare treasure has come home to Culpeper County, finding the perfect repository with an appreciative steward.

An original, silver gelatin photographic print of President Theodore Roosevelt at Cedar Mountain now rests in the care of the local nonprofit group that cares for the preserved portion of the Civil War battlefield.

Local historian Clark B. Hall, the collector who purchased the scarce photo, gave it to the Friends of Cedar Mountain during a recent visit to the hallowed ground, now maintained and interpreted by the group of area residents.” Read the full article and view the photo on starexponent.com

Virginians: Please contact your legislators to support battlefield preservation legislation

In its current session, the Virginia General Assembly is currently considering several amendments to the proposed 2020-2022 state budget that are of vital importance to battlefield preservation in the Old Dominion.

If you live in Virginia, please visit the link below to call your state legislators and express support for:

  1. Increasing funding dedicated to supporting the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund
  2. Amendments that would direct the state to fund creation of a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. Creation of this park would help highlight the rich Civil War history in Culpeper County and bring increased numbers of visitors to enjoy not only heritage tourism, but all that Culpeper County has to offer in lodging, dining, shopping, recreation, special events and more.

Please visit battlefields.org/call