Monday, April 2, 2012

After years of wrangling, Georgia will begin building historic site at Resaca battlefield

The state of Georgia later this spring will begin construction on the Battle of Resaca historic site, the first Civil War venue located directly off an interstate highway.

The decision to build along two miles of I-75 was welcomed in Gordon County in northwest Georgia, which has lobbied hard over the past 15 years.(Click image to see master plan)

"After many years of delays, false starts, too many meetings, phone calls, and e-mails to count, and one false groundbreaking ceremony, the group is elated over the state's decision to move forward," said Ken Padgett, president of the Friends of the Resaca Battlefield.

( Previous Picket coverage of efforts to build site )

The park, at Exit 320, has the tentative name of Resaca Battlefield State Historic Site. It is scheduled to open by May 2013, one year before the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, told the Picket on Monday that the state will take bids on April 26. Construction will begin in late May or early June, she said. A pre-bid meeting was held late last week.

The site, with an anticipated price tag of $3.75 million, will include a road with interpretive signs, parking and an open-air pavilion with displays and information on the battle. A green restroom facility will feature solar power and self-composting commodes supplied by stored rainwater.

"The hills of earthen infantry and artillery fortifications and Camp Creek Valley will contain over five miles of walking trails with Confederate and Federal lines having interpretative signage," Padgett said in a statement.

"Due to funding limitations we do not plan to build a visitor's center at this time," said Hatcher.

Gordon County is expected to operate and maintain the site, she added.

On May 13-15, 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee bloodied each other at Resaca. There was no clear winner. Sherman continued his march toward Atlanta, which he took several months later.( • Summary of battle) The fighting at Resaca demonstrated that the outnumbered Confederate army could only slow, but not stop, the advance of Union forces, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

An annual battle re-enactment is held each year. This year's event is May 19-20.

Local residents began pushing for the park in the 1990s and the state acquired the property. The Friends of Resaca organized support and raised money. Finally, the state appeared poised to build the visitors center after a November 2008 groundbreaking.

Plans, however, soon went south.

The Department of Natural Resources realized it did not have the money to finish the project.

Frustrated, Gordon County stepped in ago and took over, agreeing to do the construction and staff and maintain the facility. But in March 2010, citing costs and inherited permit problems, Gordon County punted on building the site. The state agreed to take the project back, but it has taken about two years to work out the details.

In early March, the Civil War Trust closed on the purchase of 51 acres of another portion of the Resaca battlefield, about 3 miles northeast of the site where the state will build. The Georgia Battlefields Association has financially supported a conservation easement on 473.48 acres of land at Resaca.

The 51-acre parcel contains the site of the battery led by Capt. Max van den Corput (left), whose four guns were captured by the Federals on May 15, 1864. The gun positions are discernible, but the site is accessible only by transiting a private driveway. The Civil War Trust will deed the land to Gordon County, which will build a parking area, walking trail and interpretive markers, according to GBA.

Gordon County is currently building an interpretive area at Fort Wayne, which was constructed near Resaca in 1862-63 to guard a river railroad bridge against further attacks following the Andrews Raid. The county is putting in a trailhead, parking area, walking trails and informational signage, with an anticipated opening date of early 2013.

Padgett, who is active in local affairs as a historical adviser, said "Gordon County will become a Civil War destination for historians, visitors, nature lovers and future generations of school students to learn from and enjoy history."

Drawings courtesy of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Learn more about Fort Wayne
Friends of the Resaca Battlefield

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