Addressing challenges at Little Round Top

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.

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Inadequate pedestrian paths, erosion and accessibility challenges at Little Round Top

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.

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Cars, buses, segways, bicycles and pedestrians compete for space in the Little Round Top parking area.


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.


Heavy use creates erosion in many areas at Little Round Top

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.

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Congestion causes pedestrians to walk on roadways and compete with buses and cars on busy days at Little Round Top.

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

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17 Responses to Addressing challenges at Little Round Top

  1. Wolfie says:

    In May 6 or 7 buses per day is an understatement. In May, peak bus season, the Foundation has been known to schedule 13 bus tours leaving the VC at the same time. This results in 13 buses arriving at LRT at the same time. 5 minutes staggering between departure times would have a significant impact on this situation.

  2. says:

    How about you ban the Segways which are a hazard and they don’t care if you are there or not they are a safety hazard when they drive stop and cut in front of your car without looking.

  3. I’m happy to see these improvements being made. I saw exactly what you have described when I visited the Battlefield last year and our bus stopped to visit Little Round Top.

  4. ted stahler says:

    I would like to see the vegetation at the foot of Little Round Top be gotten under control. This would be the Slaughter Pen area and around Plum Creek. I was there last year and you could not even see the creek. A cheap and inexpensive way would be to release goats I the area and rotate where needed. Not much manpower but efficient.

  5. I love Gettysburg. I try to visit as often as I can. Looks like you have a lot of positive changes upcoming. One thing I would like to see is the hiker/horse trail better marked. A friend and I got off the trail and ended up on another trail that had been made by horses.

  6. Little Round Top presents all sorts of challenges. One reason the shelf between the 155th PA and 146th NY monuments has received increased use over the decades is that the area around the Warren statue is subject to a pedestrian traffic jam as groups and guides jostle for position (to the point that I rarely address groups from that position any more, but use it as a place to pause before moving on. Moreover, different approaches to pedestrian traffic over the years have each brought with them different challenges and shortcomings. Indeed, clearing the brush and undergrowth from the area simply invites more traffic (I can recall when the western face to the summit looked far different).

    It’s hard to appreciate certain parts of the terrain as well as the markers and monuments without scampering up and down the west and south slope, but it’s not always easy, there are hazards, and the presence of even rare foot traffic creates erosion and damage.

  7. Pingback: New Improvements Coming to Little Round Top | Student of the American Civil War

  8. L.C.Beam says:

    My wife and I frequently visit G’burg and appreciate the changes that have been made over the years – it has greatly improved the experience and has enhanced our understanding of the battle. One of our favorite stops, and it seems like many would agree, is LRT. The area around the Warren statue gets very congested and I think this is due to a poor traffic pattern. This results in many visitors scrambling over the rocks. We have observed many near misses, especially when the less spry over estimate their rock climbing abilities. It would be great to see some accommodation that can be made for younger visitors to be able to explore but at the same time provide a way for their caregivers to observe them and keep them safe.

  9. Jeff says:

    What is the timeline for this project? As in start/completion dates? Visiting in early June and hoping LRT won’t be all torn up and blocked off with that plastic orange construction fencing. Seems like a project fit for the off season…

    • The Staff says:

      Several people have asked about the timeline for the work on Little Round Top. The answer is: not for at least one more year. In 2014 we will focus on the public planning process and we will also try to secure the funding. There is no set timeline for the work at Little Round Top at this point. It will not be any sooner than 2015. Katie Lawhon

  10. Joe says:

    Little Round Top is on par with the Grand Canyon and Old Faithful as an American treasure.
    Please try to preserve the natural setting. When Chamberlain Avenue was put back it just added more asphalt.
    I’d like to see at nature trail back in the park as was the case years ago. Let’s put the “Park” back in Gettysburg National Military Park.

  11. Roger says:

    Thanks for your great work.Clearing excessive growth should be done with very sharp sickles.They havent been used there before though.

  12. Doug says:

    The work being planned for Little Round Top is greatly overdue, and needed. I’m sure there wil be some that complain when the work is being done, however I hope there is some thought being put into alternate visitor education so the story can still be told without the need to actually go there and get in the way of the work crews. Nothing can extend the project timeline like the public wandering in and around a construction site!! Not to mention increased liability!!

  13. Pingback: Fire Management Plan at Gettysburg | The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park

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  15. Pingback: Update – Addressing challenges at Little Round Top – the planning process continues | The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park

  16. Mike Barry says:

    When I go to Gettysburg I usually avoid LRT unless I am with someone who wants to see it. If that be the case I’ll suggest either the first stop in the morning or the last before twilight.

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