Time to speak up about NPS proposal

February 11, 2010

Citizens have another week to weigh in on the proposal to have Petersburg transfer ownership of the historic South Side Depot to the National Park Service.

South Side Depot, which was one of the most important buildings during the nine-month long siege of the city during the Civil War, could potentially become a visitor contact station for the National Park Service.

The city purchased the building for $640,000 several years ago after attempts to privately renovated the historic structure did not work out. The city has maintained the building, but it is unlikely it will have the money itself to fully restore the structure.

The historic importance of South Side Depot can’t be overstated. It is symbolic of Petersburg’s role as a rail hub that helped supply the Confederate capital of Richmond. The railroads were the whole reason Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were besieged in Petersburg by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army.

Originally built around 1854, the building served the Southside Railroad that connected City Point in Hopewell to Lynchburg. During the siege of the city, the Confederates used the station to receive supplies. Though the depot was a frequent target of Union shelling, it is only documented as having been struck twice.

Already, public hearings have been held about the plan to include the 2.94 acre depot site in the boundaries of the Petersburg National Battlefield. Under the proposed plan, the city would transfer ownership of the building to the park to be used as a visitor contact station in the city.

If the park is able to expand the boundaries to include the building, the repairs necessary to open it could cost up to $8 million. Maintenance and operations costs for the building would be included in the park’s annual budget at no additional cost.

Bill Patton of the Petersburg Foundation – who has twice owned the depot – said that the local non-profit has agreed to partner with the city and the National Park Service should the plan move forward. The Petersburg Foundation would act as a fiscal agent and fundraising organization. Also, the foundation will be able to hire contractors to preserve and restore the building – with the exception of the east cargo terminal.

Copies of the plan are available for review on the Planning, Environment and Public Comment website available via www.nps.gov/pete, follow the links. It is also available on CD ROM or in hard copy at many of the local libraries in the Petersburg vicinity.

Input from the public will be accepted until close of business Feb. 19. To make comments about the proposed plan, please mail to Superintendent, Petersburg National Battlefield, 1539 Hickory Hill Road, Petersburg, VA 23803-4721 or comment via the Internet at PEPC www.nps.gov/pete or via e-mail to pete_superintendent@nps.gov.

The proposal to convert the South Side Depot into a visitor contact station has been envisioned by community leaders for years. The proposal is a critical step in the renovation and rebirth of Old Towne Petersburg. As such, every citizen should weigh in on the matter.

Copyright ©2010 The Progress-Index

On The Web:   http://progress-index.com/2.420/time-to-speak-up-about-nps-proposal-1.610683

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