Each year Gettysburg National Military Park identifies goals to accomplish in the coming twelve months. For our current fiscal year, which ends October 1, 2014, we are working on four projects: Little Round Top Rehabilitation / Environmental Assessment; Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg’s first day’s battlefield; Fire Management Plan; and Rehabilitation of North Cemetery Ridge. In my next few blogs we will look at each of these projects in depth.
Little Round Top Rehabilitation / Environmental Assessment – This project rehabilitates the Little Round Top visitor use area – both battle era features and the commemorative landscape features – while eliminating numerous safety concerns. This project will provide an adequate pedestrian circulation system that keeps visitors off of the fragile natural environment and removes tripping hazards. The natural landscape will be rehabilitated which will improve the natural resources. Site drainage will be installed where needed to protect both natural and cultural landscape features. Surrounding monuments and markers will have their foundations stabilized when the landscape surface is rehabilitated. The project would locate buses away from the primary resources to improve the visitor experience – especially the sounds and smells of idling buses.
Project details: The work entails new roadwork, car and bus parking areas, retaining walls, trails, sidewalks, ramps, stairs, accessibility, drainage, retention areas, slope stabilization, erosion control, grading, seeding, plantings, interpretive signs, regulatory signs and other improvements.
The Gettysburg Foundation is partnering with the park to fund some of the costs to complete this project.
The majority of the park’s 1.2 million annual visitors go to Little Round Top, with as many as 10,000 visitors per day during the peak visitation. The existing infrastructure does not have the carrying capacity to accommodate this number of visitors and protect cultural and natural resources. Bus and car parking is so congested that it creates safety hazards for visitors trying to cross the road to access the resource area. In addition, the visitor experience is highly impacted due to noise and air pollution from idling buses and cars. Over the past four years the park has documented 17 personal injuries at the site. Many more go unreported.
Paths presently available to visitors are too narrow for present visitor volume, resulting in serious erosion of the site’s highly erosive, rocky soil. Available paved surfaces are primarily asphalt, but these are too narrow and insufficient to accommodate the visitor loads. Signage has had limited success. Logical connections between monuments and key views do not always exist, creating confusion for the visitors. Non-paved paths to the summit have been closed using brush piles in several heavily eroded areas and temporary posts and chains have been installed along the perimeter of the asphalt pavement at the summit.
Major contributing factors to the acceleration of erosion are high storm water volume and fast runoff from paved surfaces and casual pedestrian use of non-paved areas. With the crush of visitors seeking space to move, edges of paved areas have eroded, and many beaten paths have been created along Sykes Avenue and between Sykes Avenue and Plum Run. Compaction of the soils is also occurring in many areas due to heavy foot traffic. In some areas, erosion has been so heavy that roots of large trees have been significantly exposed and paths become gullies during rainstorms.
Because of the sloping terrain, access by individuals in wheelchairs is also difficult. The ramps and sidewalks do not meet ADA standards for slope, width, and other requirements.
One of the primary circulation problems at Little Round Top is the conflict between buses, pedestrians, and cars. The presence of several buses, often as many as six or seven at a time, parked or idling among cars, along Sykes Avenue. This severely limits drivers’ visibility due to the size of the buses. Pedestrian visibility when crossing the road is also limited, since they cannot see past the buses, and must therefore step in front of a parked bus before being able to see an oncoming vehicle. When pedestrians are finally able to cross the road, pedestrian traffic flow is also awkward, confined and uncomfortable due to limited paved pedestrian surfaces. As a result, pedestrians scatter themselves randomly throughout the site, exacerbating the erosion problems and damaging remaining vegetation.
Idling buses at Little Round Top create diesel fumes and nearly constant motor noise during most of the peak visiting days.
The estimated project cost is $8,816,707. We are anticipating a 50/50 cost share between federal funding and funding from the Gettysburg Foundation.
In my next blog we will look at the project to create a Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg’s first day’s battlefield, including the Emanual Harman farm.
Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, January 24, 2014