“400 Acres at Malvern Hill Added to Richmond Battlefield Park” – Richmond Times-Dispatch

“The “power of place” is a big part of what makes a national park, said Doyle Sapp, superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park.

“Whether it’s a historical site or a natural area,” Sapp said, “the place where something happened or the place where there’s a beautiful natural process is very important.”

The National Park Service’s most recent local land acquisition — 371 acres of Malvern Hill Farm, along Route 5 in eastern Henrico County, at the edge of Charles City County — is a perfect example. It complements the portion of the Malvern Hill battlefield already owned by the park service, further telling the story and also preserving the farmland and forests and centuries of other history that exist on the property that doesn’t look altogether different than it did during the Civil War.

When he can, Sapp likes to walk the battlefield and stand on the hill — on the newly acquired land — where “Federal cannons fired down on the advancing Confederate infantryman” in the final, bloody clash of the Seven Days Battle in 1862.

“We can’t and we shouldn’t recreate the carnage and the suffering that took place, but we can at least provide a sense of place where the visitor can perhaps see a little bit of what the soldiers saw themselves,” he said.

The newly acquired land is a “very powerful addition to the park,” Sapp said. The Malvern Hill Farm piece brings the park service’s holdings to about 1,300 acres at the Malvern Hill battlefield, ensuring most of the battlefield will be preserved. In all, the park service owns almost 4,000 acres for all of its Richmond National Battlefield Park’s 13 Civil War sites around Richmond.

The park service acquired the land from the Capital Region Land Conservancy, a nonprofit land preservation group, which in 2018 completed a $6.6 million deal to purchase the 871-acre farm from the family that had owned it for almost 80 years in order to prevent it from being developed.

Having a single nonprofit handle the initial purchase makes for a more nimble and straightforward process for the seller, said Parker Agelasto, CRLC’s executive director.

From the beginning, CRLC’s intentions were to perform the heavy lifting — negotiating the agreement with the more than two dozen heirs of the Ferguson family and working out the details of the transaction while using grants and philanthropic support to pay for the purchase — so that it eventually could transfer the land to its partners: the park service, Henrico and the James River Association.

The land conservancy financed the purchase with The Conservation Fund while waiting on contributions from such organizations as the Cabell Foundation, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, the American Battlefield Protection Program, the American Battlefield Trust, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, the Virginia Battlefields Preservation Fund and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Open Space Land Preservation Trust Fund.

The land transfer with the park service was completed in December and announced in late January. The county took ownership of its piece of the farm property — more than 400 acres — in 2020. The county will use its portion of the property as parkland and an outdoor learning environmental for a new high school specialty center. An additional 60 acres in Charles City County that was part of the original purchase sold last year subject to the terms of a conservation easement held by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.”

This article was shared from a story by Bill Lohmann published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on February 5, 2022.

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