WASHINGTON – It’s hallowed ground, a popular bike path and a commuter shortcut. It’s also a new skirmish line for a city neighborhood.
Lee Drive inside Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park is 4.5 miles long. It runs along what was once the Confederate battle line in 1862 and was designed to take park visitors from point to point.
It also has been listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the National Park system because of the way it is used.
Lansdowne Street cuts across it, and commuters have been mixing in with park visitors, bikers, joggers and dog walkers for years. But when gravel was put down on top of the new pavement early in May, bicyclists and joggers started an online petition drive to have it removed.
Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park Superintendent Russ Smith says the gravel will eventually be ground into the pavement.
“This is just another one of the precautions we’ve added to slow down traffic on Lee Drive,” Smith says.
The speed limit has been lowered to 25 mph in some places, and “Share the Road” signs have been added. But cars — many of them commuters cutting through — often go much faster. The road carries 30,000 cars a month.
Terry Dorn, president of the Fredericksburg Bicyclists Club, says the gravel is dangerous for bikers, joggers and even people pushing strollers. His group wants it removed.
“It doesn’t take much gravel, particularly for the skinny-tired bicycles that you see, to crash,” Dorn says.
The road, which is near Lee Hill, was a key part of a Civil War battle there in December 1863. Fredericksburg as a city sustained heavy damage from the fighting. Additionally, 12,600 Union troops were killed, wounded or went missing in the battle, while the Confederates had 5,300 casualties.
Smith says he expects the gravel will be gone within a few weeks, simply because of the traffic flow.