Come to Lee Park and spend the day exploring its trails and its rich history. From prehistoric fossil beds to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950’s, from Civil War defense lines to one of the most significant WPA projects in the nation, Lee Park’s natural and cultural history is diverse and The Willcox Watershed Conservancy is working with the City of Petersburg to restore and preserve the Park’s resources for future generations of Petersburg residents and visitors.
Civil War Sites:
In 1864 as the Civi War was drawing to a close the Union and Confederate forces were converging on Petersburg. The 9 month Siege of Petersburg was the longest engagement of the war and at its outset, the Confederate forces in Petersburg built a defensive line around the city known as “The Dimmock Line.” Lee Park is traversed by one of the most well preserved portions of “The Dimmock Line,” visible immediately upon entering the park adjacent to both the tennis courts and the picnic pavilion locations. Within the park a new all-access trail provides visitors with a safe way to follow the defense lines while helping to preserve these important Civil War era features. Responsible use of the park will help us continue to preserve and protect these areas while allowing us to tell this important piece of our nation’s history.
During the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Lee Park was the site of an extensive project which employed single female heads of housholds, many of whom were African American, in the creation of habitat areas around Willcox Lake, the remnants of which are still evident in the Lee Park landscape today. The Willcox Watershed Conservancy is working diligently to identify, protect, and interpret these areas in order to tell the story of this nationally significant, but relatively unknown work. Our hope is that these areas within the park, with their rare plant species and a wide ranging flora, can be nurtured back to health and provide visitors and naturalists alike with a glimpse into what makes this place so special.
Lee Park Trails:
The system of trails at Lee Park were put in by the WPA workers and connect many of the park’s habitat areas. Today, the Willcox Watershed Conservancy is working with many other community partners to restore and preserve this historic trail system. Trails are being cleared, new signage is being installed, and for the first time in over 60 years, these trails are being re-opened to visitors and residents.
Within Lee Park and along its feeder creek Willcox Branch, there are areas of exposed strata from the Eastover and Yorktown formations containing a multitude of fossilized plants and animal species that live in this area tens of thousands of years ago. Exposed fossil beds are always under threat by both natural forces and cultural ones such as land development, vandalism and theft. Willcox Watershed Conservancy is committed to the preservation of these fragile natural resources and will continue to work to inform and educate our visitors on how to protect and preserve these resources long into the future.
Pressings and Paintings:
botanical watercolors were created by Bessie Marshall and a collection of plant pressings was created to represent the flora found at Lee Park. The Willcox Watershed Conservancy, in partnership with The Petersburg Garden Club and the City of Petersburg, has worked to preserve and protect these paintings and pressings while providing limited public access to the fragile originals for their protection. While images will be made available through publications, such as With Paintbrush and Shovel or traveling exhibits like Rediscovering the Forgotten Garden, the Conservancy is responsible for seeing that the originals are carefully preserved, protected and safely archived.