Preservationists say they will start this weekend restoring a section of the Manassas Battlefield Park that was damaged by developers who lost their fight to build houses there.

The effort will focus on the Stuart's Hill tract, 558 acres of land located in the park's southwest corner. Developers had hoped to build 200 houses on the tract.

Congress seized the land from the developers in 1988 through "legislative taking," a rarely used and quick method of acquiring land.

The action came too late to save some land from damage, said park Superintendent Kenneth Apschnikat. Developers did preliminary clearing work on much of the tract.

"To put it bluntly, it looked like a war zone ... ," he said. "To say the least, we have a monumental job ahead of us."

Starting tomorrow, a group of high school volunteers from around the country will try to restore the land to its pre-development status. The volunteers are members of the nonprofit Student Conservation Association.

The students' tasks will include replanting grass and stabilizing erosion, Apschnikat said.

The park's 1990 budget includes $60,000 for materials and transportation to support the conservation association's work, plus $90,000 to remove model homes from the property, Apschnikat said.