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Pitch in for Park Day: Wilderness battlefield to take part in annual preservation event

 Do your part for history and heritage this Saturday, and join in the efforts to clean up local battlefields on Park Day.
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 4/8/2010


You've heard of spring cleaning?

Well, this Saturday, people who love green space and American history will partake of spring and do some cleaning, all rolled into one event: Park Day 2010.

It's all hands on deck for this volunteer effort, a seasonal rite at 117 Civil War battlefields, parks and historical sites in more than 23 states.

Thousands of people will work together to clean up and repair facilities, exhibits and grounds.

Locally, residents will focus attention on the Wilderness battlefield in Orange and Spotsylvania counties.

To start, a local historian will briefly describe the importance of May 1864's Battle of the Wilderness, which began the Overland Campaign that led to Appomattox and the war's end. The battle was the first time that forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant squared off against each other.

"By helping the National Park Service to maintain this sacred ground, we not only help take care of this battlefield," said Mark Wakeman, chairman of the Park Day event planned by Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield, "but in a small way, we connect with our nation's past and those tens of thousands of soldiers that fought here and walked the same ground."

While supplies last, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who take part will receive a patch from the Civil War Preservation Trust. FoWB will provide free water and snacks to all volunteers.

Volunteers should meet at 9 a.m. at the Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter on State Route 20, about two miles west of State Route 3. Extra parking will be available along Hill-Ewell Road at Saunders Field.

In case of poor weather, Park Day will be held April 17.

Projects will include litter pickup on roads throughout the battlefield, painting and brush clearing. Cleanup will target spots where Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was wounded off Orange Plank Road and the Vermont Monument's parking area at Brock and Orange Plank roads.

Volunteers are reminded to bring work gloves. The National Park Service will provide trash bags for those who pick up litter and furnish paint and brushes for people who paint.

For details, call Mark Wakeman at 540/972-3460 or e-mail
Email: mark.wakeman@comcast.net.

Last year, volunteers from as far away as North Carolina and Ohio helped tidy the Wilderness. Cub Scouts and parents from Spotsylvania tackled the Saunders Field portion of the battlefield.

The nationwide effort, created by the Civil War Preservation Trust, is now in its 14th year, and is being underwritten with a grant from History (formerly The History Channel). The U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes Park Day as a "Take Pride in America" event.

"Civil War sites are often the victims of their own popularity," CWPT President James Lighthizer said. "Without proper maintenance, battlefields can suffer from the ravages of both time and tourism. Our goal is to spruce up these links to America's past so they can be enjoyed by all."

A Web site, civilwar.org/parkday, has more on this year's national projects.

Clint Schemmer: 540/374-5000
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com