New Study Finds Tennessee Civil War National Parks Need Additional Funding to Preserve Historic Battlefields and Tell Civil War Stories

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 19, 2009
Contact:   Emily Jones, Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 865.329.2424, ext. 2


New Study Finds Tennessee Civil War National Parks Need Additional Funding to Preserve Historic Battlefields and Tell Civil War Stories

Knoxville, Tenn.—As we commemorate National Armed Forces Day, the nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today released a new assessment recommending additional federal funding to maintain several of the nation’s historic Civil War battlefields. The report, which features four Civil War parks in Tennessee: Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Shiloh National Military Park, Stones River National Battlefield, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, also finds that adjacent land development threatens historic views that are essential to understanding the important battles and history that took place there.

“As we approach the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, we must ensure that our national treasures, and Tennessee’s Civil War heritage, is preserved and protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said Emily Jones, National Parks Conservation Association program manager.

According to the assessment by the National Parks Conservation Association’s Center for State of the Parks, each of the four Civil War battlefields suffer from staffing and federal funding shortfalls that affect the National Park Service’s ability to provide educational programs to visitors and maintain hundreds of historic military markers, cannons, and monuments.

For example, at Fort Donelson National Battlefield, the Park Service needs $48,000 to document and interpret ties to African-American history and the park’s association with the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Shiloh National Military Park has the oldest visitor orientation film of any park in the park system, and needs $750,000 to create a new film and rehabilitate the auditorium at the existing visitor center. At Stones River National Battlefield, home to the nation’s oldest intact Civil War monument, the Park Service has limited staff to care for monuments, historic structures, and cultural landscapes. And at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the Park Service lacks a preservation crew to maintain Civil War monuments, markers, plaques, and historic buildings.

“Many of our national parks, including our Civil War parks, suffer from chronic federal funding shortfalls that limits the ability to preserve historic sites and tell the stories of our American heritage,” said Jones.

At Fort Donelson, in 2007, about one third of visitors took part in interpretive programs in the park, such as ranger-led tours. According to its 2007 business plan, the park needs three more guides to optimally serve visitors. At Shiloh, the park needs four additional interpretation rangers to provide school groups and history organizations the same range of educational programs offered during the summer with the help of seasonal staff.

Report findings also indicate that all of Tennessee’s Civil War national parks are threatened by adjacent development that would mar historical and scenic views that are essential to interpreting American history and providing visitors with a memorable experience.

For example, at Fort Donelson, residential development along the park’s boundaries impairs the viewshed and compromises the 19th-century atmosphere the park is trying to replicate. At Shiloh, development just outside the park borders is unregulated and local commuters use park roads 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a route between neighboring communities. This continuous accessibility puts the park at risk from vandalism, looting, wildlife poaching, and vehicular damage, and it requires the park to expend resources on nighttime patrols. At Stones River, the park is highly fragmented and is surrounded by an urban environment. As a result, adjacent development disrupts wildlife habitat, generates noise, and mars views, affecting the park’s ability to preserve the Civil War-ear setting. And at Chickamauga and Chattanooga, suburban sprawl is encroaching, and there are strip malls and housing developments just outside the park.

“Imagining troops marching across the battlefields is critical to understanding the battles that took place there but urban development can make this visualization difficult,” said Jones. “Development and traffic noise disrupts educational programs and detracts from the historic events that are remembered in our nation’s battlefields.”

Last month, the Department of the Interior announced specific job-creating projects that will be completed in national parks across the country as a result of the more than $900 million in stimulus funding provided by Congress. The list of projects includes funding for restoration projects at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga. This important reinvestment in our national parks will address some needs and create jobs, but, as NPCA’s assessment points out, there is much more to do to restore our national parks.

The National Parks Conservation Association is encouraging Congress to fund the president’s proposed fiscal year 2010 budget, which would increase federal funding for Tennessee’s Civil War national parks and national parks across the country.

Since May 19, 1919, the nonpartisan NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the resource conditions of national parks across the country. To view a copy of the full report, and take action to help protect the park, please click here.

To view the National Park Service projects funded by the stimulus, visit: http://recovery.doi.gov/nps.

To download park photos, please click here.

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