Author Tim Reese has posted some interesting comments on a discussion board about the walking day-glow horror show called South Mountain Battlefield.

Although a bill passed in 2000 creates the possibility of having a battlefield, one funded by the state of Maryland, there has been no serious spending and the various interests have been free to pursue their own agendas, using contradictory methods of "saving battlefield land."

I'd like to comment on some of Tim's points. For instance, he mentions,

TR: ... naïve assumptions about cooperative, incongruent battlefield ownership, its purported preservation, and the likelihood of achieving any symbiosis toward accessible park status.

Wide swaths of battlefield land are covered with patchworks of conflicting usage arrangements. The state has not used its authority to buy land, or to condemn privately owned property, or even to create guidelines for property owners in the area. Instead self-serving entities have entered into a myriad of private deals involving restrictive use covenants to cover many privately owned parcels. The parties involved are more than incongrous - they have incompatible aims. A serious effort to create a battlefield out of the mess on South Mountain would require the diplomacy that produced the Peace of Westphalia.

TR: South Mountain is being developed as we speak! Most damage is occurring at Turner's Gap where most of the land along D.H. Hill's left flank has been parceled out for sale. Lots are already selling along Dahlgren and Frosttown roads. The latter was recently repaved to accommodate new home builders. Fox's Gap is in better shape, but hopelessly entangled in a complex mosaic of public/private ownership, unlikely to be unraveled.

Notice that lots are selling but the state is not buying. Notice that lots are selling and the preservationists are not buying. (To buy land at developer prices would be extortion! Preservationists want to pay only the fairest price keyed to farm- and woodland values. They are bargain hunters, bless 'em, so they'll pay for easements and save big. They think.)

TR: Fox's Gap is in better shape, but hopelessly entangled in a complex mosaic of public/private ownership, unlikely to be unraveled.

This is the problem with its members allowing organizations like Civil War Preservation Trust to purchase restrictive covenants on land in partnership with a bewildering array of conflicting, non-ACW organizations like the federal government, the state government, farmland conservators, nature conservators, etc. You create a pre-unification Germany, a land of hundreds of princelings, each with territory, a separate constitution, and a unique agenda.

TR: Whoever came up with the idea of S. Mtn. State Battlefield [the law authorizing it] was obviously hallucinating.

I would say that whoever drafted this law had in mind first and foremost providing political cover for those preservation organizations that have messed this situation up. As any piece of land becomes available for "easement" purchase, a new cartel is assembled to share the (trivial) expense of paying for a restrictive covenant. Each coventant is unique: a complex legal document with multiple parties involved and varying degrees of control, inspection, authorization, etc. Each is customized per negotiation. Now, if you like "what-if" you could draw a map showing all the covenants bought in and around a battlefield. No one can visit this place on the map, it is "unified" on paper only. Having the state declare this map drill a battlefield validates the failed and destructive policies of those Civil War battlefield preservationists who actually lost the battlefield and whose every new easement takes us farther away from ever being able to visit an historic site. So the law declares a battlefield exists through their efforts. It is like the legal fiction once called "the Holy Roman Empire" ... not holy, not Roman, not an empire, and in fact, a collection of crumbs. Nor is there a Bismarck in Maryland to create something out of this potential "South Mountain Battlefield Park."

TR: South Mountain "Fake" Battlefield is ... icing without a cake which children naturally prefer.

The children, I think, are the self-serving organizations perpetuating themselves and bamboozling their members by playing at preservation. The good news is that they have reached the outer limit of legitimacy. There is no more that the state can do for their disastrous policies. The members will slowly awaken to the fact that they are paying dues to battlefield land owners to keep land in private hands.

Will it take class action public interest lawsuits to put cake under the icing?

If you want to prevent battlefields from being delivered to public use, you know where to contribute your money.

Here's more background.