The National Park Service, responding to protests from some Civil War historians, has backed off a proposal to build a horse stable at the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Manus J. Fish, the director for the Park Service's National Capital Region, said yesterday that plans for an "equestrian remount facility" will be reconsidered after historians and Prince William County activists complained that the proposed barn and stable would mar the view of land where a crucial cavalry engagement of the Battle of Second Manassas occurred.
Plans for the remount center surfaced last month and critics promptly accused the National Park Service of ignoring the commitment to historic preservation that is supposed to be the central purpose of the park. In the past, the Park Service has advocated measures such as cutting down 300 acres of trees to restore the battlefield to the way it looked in the 1860s.
Fish said yesterday that plans for the remount center -- where employes would receive training to be mounted rangers and would have stalls for 13 horses -- are being put on hold so that public comment can be heard. The director said recent research may show that the site of the proposed equestrian facility is on ground more historically significant than park planners originally understood.
"On the basis of this new information . . . we're going to reconsider," Fish said.
Fish said the new research was conducted by John J. Hennessy, a former historian at Manassas who now works for the New York state government, and a leader in the effort to block the stable.
"This facility does not belong at the Manassas National Battlefield," Hennessy said. "It's going to discourage visitors who want to understand the significance of what happened."
Fish, a horse enthusiast who said he enjoys riding at the park, was one of the original supporters of the remount facility, according to Park Superintendent Rolland Swain. Swain said the proposed site of the remount facility was originally considered a good location because it is on land the Park Service has designated as a "maintenance zone" of lesser historical significance.
The land where the remount facility is proposed is known as the "Wheeler tract," after the family that sold it to the Park Service several years ago. Swain said a member of the Wheeler family has donated $50,000 to the cost of building the center, estimated to cost from $80,000 to $150,000.