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Volunteers spruce up battlefield

April 08, 2002|BY ANDREA ROWLAND

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Armed with trash bags and handsaws, history buffs and nature lovers combated trash and weeds at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg on Saturday.

The Civil War Preservation Trust launched the Park Day preservation event to help local communities maintain and restore their Civil War-related battlefields, cemeteries and shrines, according to information from the organization.

National Park Service rangers at Antietam National Battlefield have participated in the nationwide event for about six years, Ranger Debbie Cohen said.

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The theme of this year's sixth annual Park Day was "Our Parks, Our Past, Our Pride."

Preservation Trust membership letters called upon volunteers to heed the words of President Bush in his State of the Union address: "We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self."

Tom Koehler of Baltimore was drawn to Antietam by the president's words and a desire to honor his own heritage, he said.

Two of Koehler's great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War, he said.

"This was a way for me to give back," he said.

Armed with leather gloves and a handsaw, Koehler and four other volunteers braved chilly temperatures and a cutting wind to clear overgrowth and exotic trees on the historic Mumma Farm just north of the 14th Connecticut monument.

The group worked under the direction of Park Ranger Duane Marcus.

"We're trying to get rid of anything that wasn't here when the battle was fought," Koehler said.

Much of the group's efforts involved clearing excess Atlantis trees from the southern edge of the Mumma Farm, where Youth Conservation Corps workers this summer will build a worm fence similar to the fence that stood during the Battle of Antietam, Marcus said.

Clearing the way for such interpretive structures "makes it a lot easier to understand what happened here," said Civil War enthusiast Del Hughes of Gambrills, Md.

Hughes worked alongside Donna Douglas of Beltsville, Md., and David Ferraro of Gaithersburg, Md., cutting weeds that threatened to overtake native plant species.

"I enjoy being at Antietam and I want the park to be here for other people to see," Ferraro said.

Across the battlefield, a group of Cub Scouts helped with reforestation efforts in the West Woods.

Farther south near Burnside Bridge, seven volunteers helped Ranger Cohen pick up trash along the Snavely's Ford Trail beside Antietam Creek. The group gathered debris along the entire length of the 21/2-mile trail, Cohen said.

"They've done an awful lot of work," she said.

Despite the cold, Cohen said, volunteers even pulled old tires from the stream bed.

"These people were very brave," she said. "They have gone above and beyond the call of duty."

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