Battle of Brandywine
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At the Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, marching soldiers storm the rolling hills for the Park's annual reenactment... carrying the drums of war. Clouds of sulfur smoke hang thick in the air. Lines of American troops in blue uniforms fire muskets at the British in red.

"Ready... take careful aim lads....pick your targets well."
Tom Maguire has been involved in the Brandywine Reenactments for over a decade.

First thing I'd like to tell people is Brandywine is very possibly the largest battle of the American Revolution.
If it's not the largest it's certainly one of the top three. In terms of the numbers of people involved. And the sheer amount of real estate that it covered. It was fought over a 20 mile square area. Which is almost incomprehensible.
Maguire says this battlefield area has been increasingly developed over the past two decades and says it could get worse. According to one estimate, less than 10 percent of the Brandywine Battlefield area is protected from development.

Tom Maguire:

You're not going to be able to take Southeastern Pennsylvania and revert it to 1777. But on the other hand does everything have to revert to 1990 or 2000. Does everything have to be turned into condominiums, strip malls, etc... or can the two in fact co-exist.
David Shields stands by the side of a road in Birmingham Township, Chester County. Shields is the Associate Director at the Brandywine Conservancy, an environmental preservation group. This area is part of the Meetinghouse Road Corridor... the site of the most intensive Brandywine fighting. In recent years, the Conservancy has focused its efforts on a section of the Corridor land just northwest of here. Shields says they seek out conservation which a land owner agrees to restrict development on his or her property in perpetuity:

To preserve this land and rely on some private land owner to give away value, i.e. development a lot to ask and that's why we in the conservation field are finding that we now have to start buying development rights, buying easements.
The Conservancy has been able to raise $9 million dollars from federal, state and county sources to purchase the easements. But Shields says while compensation for the land helps, he always arms himself with local history when approaching land owners:

The history pitch is a great way to get past the threshold. To talk about...did you know that your property was so and so's farm or did you know that the battle was just over the hill there.
But Shields' pitch doesn't work every time. Ultimately private land is private land says John Lynch, President of Trilogy Investments, a Delaware County developer:

I feel strongly about people's right to their property. And they're entitled to the value to purchase and sell that property.
Lynch says he believes not all development is bad for the historic or environmental aspects of a property. But Lynch adds he's not your typical developer. He says he's interested preserving those additional features, without decreasing a property's monetary value:

I think conservation measures and development measures can exist very well and frequently if done properly, produce an end result superior to any result that could have been achieved. The big caveat is that you have to have people that are willing to go through the process.
Two of Richard Brigham's dogs run along his driveway up to the thicket of trees that hugs his secluded Meetinghouse home. Brigham says they were more inclined to place their land in an easement once they discovered the history of the Brandywine. He adds that some development is inevitable:

With zoning and subdivision regulations you can control it, but you can't stop it. You can't take away a person's right to do something with his property. So we feel we're fortunate to be where we are and it isn't going to change right around us as long as we live here. After that who knows?
The Battle of Brandywine was fought two centuries ago, but the debate over the land itself is still undecided. I'm Joel Rose, WHYY News.
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