Thursday, December 17, 2009

Georgia Battlefield Project

State retreats from Resaca Battlefield project
Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

Gordon County commissioners voted Tuesday to lead the charge to complete work at the Resaca Battlefield after the state department overseeing the project made a retreat.

"They said, 'Look, if you want to see this project moved forward you're going to have to do it,'" Commission Chairman Alvin Long said of his talks with the state.

A group of local residents began pushing for a battlefield park in the early 1990s and progress had advanced as far as a groundbreaking ceremony before the Georgia Department of Natural Resources pulled out due to a lack of funding.

The park is located where entrenched Confederate forces met Atlanta-bound Union troops led by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in May 1864. But state officials hope the site, located next to Interstate 75, will be friendlier to modern visitors from the North.

Kim Hatcher, a spokeswoman for Georgia State Parks, said the state had allotted $3.7 million for the project, but realized that wouldn't be enough to complete it.

The original goal was to complete the project by the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011. With that date fast approaching, the county stepped in and asked to take over the project, Ms. Hatcher explained.

The DNR board signed the intergovernmental agreement Tuesday, charging the county with building and maintaining the park in exchange for revenues from visitors.

"We're just really excited that they're able to step in help out with the project," she said.

Gordon commissioners were not as enthusiastic.

Mr. Long said he was disappointed the state wouldn't complete the park because finances were tight for the county as well. He hoped it could still be completed in 18 months.

"It's not the best economic time to do it, but it's the time which we've been given," he said.

He said the state originally allotted $5 million for the project, but diverted funds to another project. Ms. Hatcher said $3.7 had always been the amount of the bond for the project and about $400,000 of it had already been spent on surveying.

Ken Padget, who was one of the battlefield's early supporters, said the state had "dropped the ball on an excellent opportunity." He thanked the commission as well as the cities of Resaca and Calhoun for their contributions. He was also thankful that the DNR transferred the funds to the county because if the money had moved back into the general fund, it might not have come back, he explained.

"Many of us feel we would have lost the development of the park forever," he said.