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Posted at 11:31 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Civil War soldiers to be honored in Living Legacy Tree Planting program

By Jennifer Buske

More than 100 miles of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania roadway is about to get a little more green thanks to funding from the Commonwealth and a vision by Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership officials who created a program to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton, along with journey officials said Friday that the Commonwealth Transportation Board will provide a $300,000 grant to begin the Living Legacy Tree Planting program. Through the program, one tree for every soldier killed in the war will get planted along the journey’s 180-mile National Scenic Byway, which stretches from Gettysburg to Monticello.

“Let’s be honest, nothing like this has ever been done before,” Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership president Cate Magennis Wyatt said. “Planting one tree for each soldier [who died] seemed both eloquent and appropriate…it’s a way to connect the past to the present and certainly the future.”

The grant from the state will allow for some preliminary engineering to be complete, Connaughton said, noting they have to determine the type and size of trees and where exactly they will be planted along the scenic byway that runs through Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania.

“It will take a lot of work to make this something that really will be here in 50 years,” Connaughton said. "These funds will allow the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership to help educate our citizens and visitors of the Commonwealth’s rich history as well as enhance the quality of life for all who call Virginia home.”

Wyatt said over the course of about four years, they will plant 620,000 trees – at about $100 each -- for the soldiers who perished during the Civil War. The number killed, journey officials said, represented about 10 percent of the nation’s population at the time.

The idea to plant trees developed after each community along the journey’s scenic byway was asked to create a legacy project in preparation for the upcoming sesquicentennial of the First Battle of Manassas. Community officials decided to work collectively with the journey Wyatt said, and they wanted to see something different to honor those who fought .

“The mayors and chairmans [of the communities] said ‘we don’t need another flagpole’…and asked what can we do that would be bigger than any of us,” Wyatt said.

Connaughton said the state really supported this project because it brings together three major issues in Virginia- education, economic development and transportation. This project will be something schools can get involved in and it has the potential to bring more tourists to the Commonwealth.

This “will help future generations of history buffs, students and tourists visualize the sheer scale of the Civil War in this region and remind all of the courage and blood that was shed along this hallowed road and the surrounding landscape,” Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) said.

Several jurisdictions have passed resolutions in support of the project, journey officials said. While Prince William County has not yet, Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) said he and Supervisor John T. Stirrup (R-Gainesville) hope to bring a resolution to the board this month. The only concern, he said, is how to sustain the trees for a lifetime without burdening county taxpayers.

“I do think this is something the board will support,” Covington said. “I think it’s exciting not only from the historical standpoint but also because of the environmental value it will provide.”

By Jennifer Buske  | March 2, 2011; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  150th anniversary, News  
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