Antietam National Battlefield to improve over next decade
SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — Plans are in the works at Antietam National Battlefield to improve the historical experience for its 330,000 annual visitors, including changes that could take up to a decade to implement.
Long-term plans include moving or reconfiguring three of the 11 tour stops, expanding the trail system and integrating 946 unused acres into the battlefield, according to plans recently approved by the National Park Service.
“This plan will provide visitors with a cohesive and immersive experience on the battlefield,” Superintendent Susan Trail stated in a news release. “We want to increase opportunities for visitors to connect with and understand the pivotal role the Battle of Antietam played in the Civil War, while protecting these hallowed grounds and natural habitat that now covers the battlefield.”
It’s been 156 years since the Battle of Antietam was fought on Sept. 17, 1862, and the rolling hills and open fields look much like they did on the day Union and Confederate soldiers fought and died.
A walk through the pastoral grounds of the battlefield still evokes images of the day 23,110 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing during the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. The park consists of over 3,250 acres of farmland, pastures, woodlots and limestone forests
The trail and tour stop changes are designed to make it easier for visitors to understand that battle.
Planned improvements to the walking trails include:
. Reconfiguring existing trails into an 11-mile new trail that will allow visitors to walk the entire circumference of the battlefield. The trail will start and end at the visitors center.
. Better highlight locations on the grounds where significant parts of the battle took place, such as the Sunken Road and the Miller Cornfield.
. The paved walkway leading to Dunker Church, along with the Antietam Remembered walking trail, will be made handicap-accessible.
Planned improvements to three auto-tour routes include:
. A new stop at the East Woods location. The new Tour Stop 3 is intended to improve visibility to the nearby Mansfield Monument and provide space for an interpretive area.
. Tour Stop 4, at the cornfield, will be expanded to include an interpretive area and additional parking.
. Tour Stop 6 at the Mumma cemetery will be moved closer to the adjacent Mumma farm and outbuildings.
The changes will not be made soon.
“It’s a five- to 10-year plan,” said Keith Snyder, park ranger and the battlefield’s chief of resource education and visitors services. “These are a lot of changes that visitors won’t see for another five to 10 years. These are long-term plans.”
The costs for the improvements have yet to be determined.
“When we start working on parts of the plan, that’s when costs will be available, and we’ll start applying for funding,” Snyder said.
There could be smaller, incremental improvements over the short-term.
“The (walking) trail side might see some early improvements,” he said. “We’ll work on a short-term plan to try to implement some of these. We’ve got to show we’re serious.”
The park’s 1992 general management plan called for a review of the battlefield itself to determine if improvements need to be made.
“The 1992 plan calls for us to look at the park holistically and try to improve it,” Snyder said.
The battlefield has doubled in size since the plan was completed in 1992.
Meanwhile, the construction of a new visitors center takes priority, Snyder said. Construction is set to start in 2020.
“This will be a complete renovation,” he said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com