Kennesaw Mountain’s 11 miles of earthworks have long outlived the young men who hastily erected them before the momentous battle in June 1864.
“We probably have the best set of field earthworks anywhere in the country,” says Stanley Bond, superintendent of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in suburban Atlanta.
But that doesn’t mean time, erosion and humans aren’t taking their toll.
Some visitors have worn down gun emplacements. Invasive vegetative species have moved in and trees have risen in the trenches.
This summer, about 10 high school and college students from Atlanta’s Greening Youth Foundation, along with other volunteers, have been removing saplings that could tear away entrenchments if they tip over.
But the park wants to do more. An outside consulting firm is finalizing an earthworks management plan for Kennesaw Mountain.
Bond says he expects the action plan to recommend steps to prevent erosion, remove some trees, include more fencing and use signage to educate visitors.
“How do we interpret them to the public?” Bond asks.
Kennesaw is an unusual Civil War battlefield in that about 80 percent of its users come for recreational reasons. The park has miles of jogging and horse-riding trails.
“Most of them [earthworks] are in places where people don’t go,” Bond says.
Liz Sargent, a historic landscape architecht in Charlottesville, Va., has been devising the plan on behalf of John Milner Associates, which provides cultural management and historic preservation services.
While she can’t speak specifically about the Kennesaw plan, Sargent says her work includes looking at how land or water affected a battle, such as at Vickburg, Ms., and Stones River, Tenn. Kennesaw Mountain, of course, has its mountains.
Sargent agrees that in some cases fences are needed to protect areas, especially in city settings. Signs and fences “can diminish the sense of history and going back in time” but also can be useful and educational.
The NPS’s “Sustainable Military Earthworks Management” provides a framework for saving fortifications.
“Military earthworks are complex and fragile resources that are often the only surviving above-ground structural remnants of a battle. These resources are highly authentic to the historic battle and require specialized management within the general principles of battlefield landscape preservation.”
Over the past 30 years or so, parks have looked at features like entrenchments with a more scientific and preservation focus, Sargent says. Sites are trying to manage competing needs.
“They want something that is sustainable,” says Sargent.
• Click here to learn about earthworks management.