Improving Water Quality on the Gettysburg Battlefield

Trail near Patterson pasture

A runner along the Taneytown Road Trail with the Patterson pasture in the background.

“We all live downstream.” You have probably heard this before and it is very true. The quality of the water we drink, the waters we swim in on a hot summer day and the waters we fish in is determined by our upstream neighbors. During the Civil War more soldiers died of diseases than as a direct result of battle action. Many of those diseases were water-borne such as dysentery, cholera and hepatitis. The waterways that flowed through the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863 still flow through it today. The soldiers drank from Rock Creek, Plum Run, Willoughby Run and other waterways and springs. Would you drink directly from these waters?

PattersonPastureBlogMapToday’s modern day threats to clean water are numerous. Gettysburg and surrounding Adams County are located within the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, a bay famous as a nursery for things that we humans love to eat such as crabs, oysters and tasty fish. The bay

IMG_6730

Biologist Dafna Reiner at one of the new stone crossings over Patterson Branch.

has also become infamous for “dead zones” like the one a few years ago that caused a massive fish kill of over a quarter of a million fish. These dead zones are caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus. The most common source of this over nitrification is agricultural runoff from fertilizers and animal waste. The National Park Service is entrusted with the responsibility of being a good steward of the Gettysburg battlefield and along with that comes the responsibility of taking care of the waters that flow through it, waters that eventually drain downstream into the Chesapeake Bay.

Patterson Pasture

Looking west from the Patterson pasture, with the Patterson house in the background.  Taneytown Road is just beyond the house.

In 2016 Gettysburg National Military Park partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Adams County Conservation District to protect the waters that flow through one of the park’s active pastures. The Patterson Pasture is home to 15 horses for seven months during the growing season. Visitors can see this pasture as they walk the paved trail along Taneytown road, close to where it turns to cross Taneytown Rd into Pleasonton Ave. A grant to the permit holder who leases this pasture from the park funded the installation of a fence and two stone crossings. The fence excludes the horses from a

Patterson House 2017

The Patterson house with its surrounding pasture. This photo was taken from the field just across Taneytown Road.

forested corridor along a murmuring waterway that runs through the pasture. Excluding horses from this corridor eliminates soil erosion into the stream and deposition of animal waste into and close to the waterway. The two stone crossings give the horses access to both sides of the pasture and to drinking water. Less nitrogen input from animal waste and less erosion mean cleaner waters inside the park, cleaner waters for the park’s neighbors downstream and for the fish and wildlife who call the Chesapeake Bay home.

Dafna Reiner, Biologist, Gettysburg National Military Park, March 23, 2017

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About Gettysburg National Military Park

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2 Responses to Improving Water Quality on the Gettysburg Battlefield

  1. Nancy wentworth says:

    Is there a list of the types of apple trees planted in the park? Are they heritage or old style apples? Where do you get the trees? Might they be hardy for use further north?

    • The Staff says:

      Trees planted in the park’s orchards after 2005 are modern varieties, resistant to diseases including apple scab, fire blight, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew. The extent of resistance in the apple varieties varies differently to these diseases. These varieties are mostly used by organic growers and many are recommended for homeowners because little or no pesticides are needed to maintain these trees for fruit:
      Enterprise – Developed through a joint resistant apple breeding program between Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois Universities. Released to the public in 1993.
      Freedom – Developed by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station. Released to the public in 1958.
      Goldrush – Developed through a joint apple breeding program between Indiana, New Jersey, Illinois Agricultural Experiment Stations. Released to the public in the 1990’s
      Liberty – Developed by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station. Released to the public in 1978
      Redfree – Developed through a joint resistant apple breeding program between Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois Universities. Released to the public in 1981.
      Pristine – Developed through a joint resistant apple breeding program between Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois Universities. Released to the public in 1994.
      Williams Pride – Developed through a joint resistant apple breeding program between Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois Universities. Released to the public in 1988.

      The orchards established prior to 2005 are heirloom varieties.
      Yellow Delicious – Clay County, WV. 1914.
      Cortland – New York. 1890’s
      Smokehouse – Mill Creek, Pa. 1837
      There are several apple varieties planted in these orchards that have not been identified. Most of the trees were purchased through Boyer’s Nursery, Biglerville, Pennsylvania and Adams County Nursery. Aspers, Pennsylvania. A few of the trees were purchased through Stark Bro’s Nursery, Louisiana, Missouri. Recommendations for the zones where these apple varieties flourish can be obtained through the State Agricultural Extension Office and nurseries where the trees are purchased.

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