Del. Peace says preservation is consistent with the public interest in education, recreation and heritage tourism
Central Virginia – House Bill 717, introduced by Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R), establishes in the Code of Virginia a vehicle to pursue Civil War site preservation in the Commonwealth in advance of the state’s 2011 Sesquicentennial commemoration.
"Virginia has a rich history and heritage. More especially, our district is home to the Battle of Cold Harbor, which is one of the most endangered sites in America. The state should work with individuals and non-profits to see that our posterity is preserved for future generations. We must work and find opportunities for preserving and interpreting these valuable resources," stated Peace.
The Virginia Civil War Site Preservation Fund has existed only in budget language since it was created with strong bipartisan support in 2007. The bill would retain oversight and grant award authority with the Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Since its inception, with over $5 million 2,000 acres of historic battlefields have been protected in perpetuity.
Peace’s measure creates the Fund as a non-reverting fund into which state general funds will be added only if specifically appropriated by the General Assembly. No state funds are being requested at this time; rather, the primary sources of the funds are anticipated to be from grants or awards from the United States Government and from public and private gifts and bequests. The Fund will make awards to private non-profit organizations or to state or local government agencies.
Additionally, funds will be used solely for the fee simple purchase or purchase of protective interests in those Virginia Civil War battlefield historic sites recognized by the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program.
"Virginia is poised to capitalize on enhanced revenue generated through these protection measures. The civil war tourist spends more and stays longer according to studies. Tourism is beneficial to communities across the Commonwealth,” said Peace. In Virginia, tourism marketing historically returns $5 in tax revenue to state and local coffers for every dollar spent in the same fiscal year. That $5 generally breaks down into $2.88 in state tax revenues and $2.12 in local tax revenues.
Additionally the travel industry in Virginia in 2008 generated $18.7 billion in visitor spending; supported 210,000 jobs; provided $1.2 billion in state and local taxes for Virginia's communities and $4.3 billion in payroll and salaries for local, state and federal economies.
This bill was requested by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and co-patroned by Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). According to CWPT website, the Civil War Preservation Trust is America's largest non-profit organization (501-C3) devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields. The Trust also promotes educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war's history and the fundamental conflicts that sparked it. For more information visit: http://www.civilwar.org/aboutus.
"Virginia has the enviable position of being where much of the history of our nation was made. With that comes the responsibility to all Americans that we preserve those sites,” stated Waite Rawls, Executive Director of the Museum of the Confederacy.
HB 717 passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 99-0 today. This bill has a companion measure carried by Sen. Ed Houck (D-Spotsylvania). Sen. Houck’s district is home to the Battle of Chancellorsville among others.
Delegate Christopher K. Peace was elected to his third term representing the 97th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. The District includes parts of Hanover, Caroline, King William, King and Queen, Henrico, Spotsylvania Counties and all of New Kent County.