Antietam may be restored to its pre-Civil War look

December 05, 1990|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

National Park Service officials are recommending approval of a controversial management plan for Antietam National Battlefield -- one that would restore the site to how it looked before the historic Civil War battle, a document obtained by The LTC Sun reveals.

The draft for Antietam, dated Oct. 26, shows that the par service favors what has been called "Alternative B" -- a plan that would restore the battlefield in Sharpsburg "to its approximate appearance on the eve of the battle of Sept. 17, 1862."

The document describes Alternative B as "the National Par Service's preferred alternative and draft management plan" for the Washington County landmark. However, the proposal could be revised.

The purpose of the plan, according to the proposal, is to manag the battlefield "in ways that will best serve visitors while preserving the historic character and appearance of the battlefield." Recommendations include elimination of some paved roads in the park, renovation of the visitor's center and support for state construction of a Route 65 bypass around Sharpsburg.

Richard Rambur, park service superintendent at Antietam, sai the document is not the final word on what may come out of the agency. "It has since been sent back to Denver [the park service planning office] for revisions," he said. "There's no way of saying what the final recommendation will be. There's been no review of it yet at the regional or national level."

He wouldn't say if he thought the agency would pick anothe plan besides the one reported as the park service's "preferred alternative."

Bill Koning, a park planner involved in writing the report, said i was being "extensively rewritten." When asked if substantial changes were being made, he said: "It's a question of some details, corrections, insertion of data, things like that."

He said he did not know if the park service's choice would change.

Ann Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Save Historic Antietam wit Responsible Policies, said the park service's choice of Alternative B was significant "in that so much of the public comment was in support of Alternative A." That alternative would keep the park management and development as is, with no expansion or changes.

"We feel that Alternative B is not so much a preservation plan as it is to create a tourist attraction," Mrs. Corcoran said.

Thomas Clemens, a spokesman for the Save Historic Antieta Foundation, another preservation organization, said the park service recommendation "doesn't particularly surprise me. I'm pleased that they are leaning toward Alternative B."

In the Battle of Antietam, 23,100 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or reported missing in the bloodiest fight of the Civil War. Because the area has largely remained free of commercial development, the site is considered one of the most important Civil War landmarks by historians and preservationists.

About 130,000 people visit the battlefield annually, park service officials said.

With development spreading west from metropolita Washington and Baltimore, the battlefield has been listed among the United States' 11 most endangered historic sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Several parts of Alternative B, one of three proposals that th agency presented in public meetings, have been eliminated from the plan, the draft statement said.

Among them, the park service should no longer consider acquiring the historic Grove Farm, where historians say President Abraham Lincoln and Union General George B. McClellan met after the battle.

The report does recommend an expansion of the current par service boundaries, but only to include property now owned by the Conservation Fund, a non-profit organization. In the park's 3,250 acres, the park service owns slightly more than 800 acres.

Under the land protection section of the proposed plan, th report states that "appropriate land use methods would be developed on a parcel-by-parcel basis and prioritized to the best use of limited funds. Fee acquisition would probably be the

only feasible option for areas needed for visitor use."

"Scenic easements, purchase and sale with covenants, or othe land use controls would be recommended for tracts that provide a visual backdrop" to the battlefield, the report continues.

The remaining option, Alternative C, called for partial restoratio of the battlefield and simplifying the passage of traffic through the park.

Mr. Koning said the agency is hoping to have a final report fo public release by mid-January, "although that is very optimistic."

Another series of public hearings will be scheduled, park service officials said.

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