Wednesday, July 25, 2007

National Park Service Cutting Trees at Gettysburg

USAToday: Photo by William Bretzger
A cannon rests on Cemetery Ridge, marking a Union line of artillery and facing recently cleared land that previously had obstructed the views.

This project is controversial as it cuts some trees over 100 years old. But on balance, I think it will be good. When you go to Gettysburg, you try to imagine the battles; having the landscape look as it did in 1863 will aid that imagining. Trees to be cut this week on battlefield

The project will cut about 10 acres of trees near the battle site, part of the park's plan to cut 576 acres of non-historic trees to restore as many 1863 viewsheds as possible.

So far, the Park Service has cut 165 acres of trees, but has left "witness trees" - those that were there at the time of the battle - intact, said Jim Johnson, chief of resource planning.

Johnson said a staff biotechnician marks trees old enough to have stood during the battle as not to be cut.

He said the Park Service spared a tall, shady tree that stands on top of Devil's Den because it probably stood during the battle, though it would have been a sapling then.

The Park Service will continue to treat cut areas for two years to prevent weeds from growing in and prevent trees from repopulating the area, Johnson said.

"Every meadow wants to be a woods if you don't cut it and maintain it," Johnson said. Slideshow: Gettysburg, When The Sun Goes Down [reenactors!]

USAToday: Sights set on taking back battlefield — to 1863

The finished rehabilitation project is expected to cost nearly $3.5 million in federal and private funds. The Park Service is using historical maps, photos, sketches and archival records to recreate topographic and other features. The plan calls for clearing woods, replanting orchards, restoring fencing and rehabilitating farm lanes and roads that once crisscrossed the battlefield.

Perhaps the most controversial part of the plan calls for demolishing noted architect Richard Neutra's 1962 Cyclorama, home to Paul Dominique Philippoteaux's historic circa 1884 painting of the battle.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It also sits on Cemetery Ridge, the place where Union soldiers repulsed the ill-fated Pickett's Charge.

USAToday: Photo Gallery: Gettysburg: Then and Now Park Service Removing Gettysburg Trees
576 Acres Of Newer Trees Set To Come Down
(link also has slideshow of images of tree cutting and video of 2005 renovations to Gettysburg)

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