Volunteers spruce up battlefield with saplings

March 28, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHARPSBURG - The Chukla family of Leitersburg - Joseph, Debby and their four children, ages 7 to 18 - returned to Antietam National Battlefield Saturday for Park Day.

The Chuklas, who planted hardwood saplings in the West Woods, were among about 85 volunteers who took part in the annual cleanup day sponsored by the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Among the others who volunteered Saturday were members of Boy Scout troops from Delaware and Pennsylvania, Civil War buffs and "people who have an affinity for this battlefield," park spokeswoman Debbie Cohen said.


Cohen said the volunteers were split into four groups, who cleaned trails and roadways, and planted and pulled up trees.

They picked up trash and debris from about three-fourths of a mile of park roadway around the Burnside Bridge area. They also cleaned up the 2.5-mile Snavely Ford Trail, which runs along Antietam Creek and the river bottom next to it, she said.

Another group, including the Chukla family, came away with muddy knees and gloves after planting tulip poplar and red oak saplings in the West Woods.

Joseph Calzarette, natural resources program manager for the park, was encircled by a couple dozen volunteers as he taught them the finer points of tree planting.

After the lesson, they struck out on their own, shovels and saplings in hand, to plant trees wherever they found what they thought was a good spot in the field.

The goal of the random tree planting is to restore the field to the way it looked on Sept. 17, 1862, the day Robert E. Lee's Confederates met Union troops under Gen. George McClellan to fight in what turned out to be the single bloodiest day in American history.

Other hardwood varieties, including hackberry and walnut, are being planted. When they mature, the field should replicate the managed woodlot of a mid-19th century farm, Calzarette said.

"We've been planting trees since 1995," he said. About 700 trees are planted per acre, but only 30 to 35 percent survive because of deer, rabbits and poor planting, he said.

Debby Chukla said her family volunteers at the battlefield when they can. They clean up after re-enactments or participate in the annual cleanup day, she said.

Another group went to the North Woods to pull up invasive cedar saplings, Cohen said.

"They're competing with the plants that are there," she said.

Steve Small, Scoutmaster of Troop 2540 from Lewes, Del., was trying to position his 25 Boy Scouts and adult leaders under a large maple tree in the front yard of the park's visitors center for a group photograph.

"It's for our local paper and our scrapbook," Small said. The trip to Sharpsburg was part of a troop service project, he said.

Small's crew of scouts, plus another eight from Troop 370 in St. Thomas, Pa., were camping out at the park over the weekend.

Terry Strock, assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 370, said his troop was involved in the cleanup for the first time.

"We picked this date to come camping here and it worked out that we picked this weekend," Strock said.

All of the volunteers were treated to a walking tour of the battlefield after their work was finished.

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