A safer path through Gettysburg's battlefield

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Gettysburg National Military Park has just opened a new pedestrian walking/jogging trail along Taneytown Road, one of a dozen roads that lead into the center of the famous Civil War town.

The 3,500-foot trail improves the safety for visitors along the road that connects the national park to Taneytown, Md., a few miles south of the Mason-Dixon line. The trail gives better access from the Gettysburg National Visitors Center and Museum, which draws more than 1 million tourists each year, to such popular park attractions as the Pennsylvania Civil War Memorial, Cemetery Ridge (where Union forces were massed on July 2-3, 1863) and other locations on the Gettysburg battlefield, park officials said.

"The addition of this short but very important trail to the park will ensure our visitors will have safe pedestrian access to key portions of the battlefield from the museum and visitors center area,'' said Gettysburg National Park superintendent Bob Kirby.

The new trail became necessary, he added, because of increasing numbers of visitors since the new visitors center/museum opened in 2008 and more people deciding to go on foot, often for physical fitness reasons, to see battlefield sites.

"There have been new opportunities to understand battlefield landscapes thanks to 12 years of battlefield rehabilitation efforts by the National Parks Service, he said.

The park service has added a health initiative called "Take a Hike and Call Me in the Morning," which has increased the number of visitors taking fitness walks and runs, along with other health programs by Adams County, where Gettysburg is located.

Until now, Mr. Kirby said, visitors have had to walk or run along the narrow Taneytown Road from a battlefield building that once was Union Commanding Gen. George Meade's headquarters. They had to "walk down the edge of the roadway, and we recognized this as an unsafe condition, so we worked hard to secure the funding to improve visitor access. Combined with the health benefits of walking, this addition to the park is a win-win."

Part of the project was resurfacing almost 1,200 feet of trail near the monument honoring the 20th Maine regiment at Little Round Top, the eastern edge of the Union forces along Cemetery Ridge during the last two days of the battle, July 2-3, 1863.

The trail project cost $755,000, with money coming from the National Park Service's roads and parkways fund.

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Tom Barnes: hickeybarnes@yahoo.com or 1-717-623-1238.


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