Proposed federal bill would help Sailor’s Creek restoration

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The federal government has a program called a restoration grant, which is meant to help restore battlefield sites from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War back to what they looked like when those specific battles were fought. But currently, there’s one small problem. Federal law only allows land purchased by a specific type of grant to be eligible, leaving dozens of battlefield parks, including Sailor’s Creek here in Prince Edward County, out of luck. That’s where the American Battlefield Protection Program Enhancement Act comes in. 

It’s a mouthful to say, but the bill, which is making its way through the U.S. Senate, would remove the current requirement and allow any battlefield park to be eligible for these funds. 

“From Yorktown to Appomattox, the map of Virginia is a map of America’s military history,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, the bill’s sponsor. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to strengthen the American Battlefield Protection Program and help ensure these lands are preserved, so future generations can visit and learn about their importance.”

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Officials with the American Battlefield Trust said the change was much needed, and if approved by Congress, would make finding restoration funding a bit easier for some of these battlefield parks like Sailor’s Creek. 

“I applaud Senators Kaine and Hyde-Smith for their longstanding support for the American Battlefield Protection Program,” said David Duncan. He serves as president of the American Battlefield Trust. “(This program) is one of the best examples of the private sector working with the federal government to preserve American history. The program encourages nonprofit and state investment in saving hallowed ground, leveraging federal dollars more than 3-to-1.” 

How does it help Sailor’s Creek? 

We went through the bill and while the funding is a key part, it does a bit more. Right now, only land identified in National Park Service (NPS) maps are eligible to be bought and added as part of a battlefield park. Even if you have evidence the battlefield extended beyond that point, unless Congress updates the maps, currently you can’t add that property to the park. 

This means that if there is new archaeology or research that shows the historic extent of a battlefield is different from NPS’s original maps, the land cannot be preserved. 

When asked, officials from Kaine’s office gave an example of Green Springs Battlefield over in James City County. Originally it was thought to be a much smaller fight. But new research over the years detailed a much more comprehensive event. Under this new bill, Green Springs and other battlefields would be able to be expanded. 

The bill has since been co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).