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 Posted: Sat Jul 23rd, 2011 01:44 am
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Michael F. Blake
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POWESR HILL NEXT TO GET 1863 LOOK
by Scot Andrew Pitzer, July 22, 2011,Gettysburg Times Staff Writer

Three artillery monuments stand atop Powers Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park, but are rarely visited by the park’s two million annual tourists.

Visitors can’t see those monuments, as non-historic trees currently block them from public view.

However, that’s all about to change.

The National Park Service plans to continue its landscape rehabilitation program this summer, by removing up to six acres of non-historic trees from Powers Hill.

According to park historians, the tree removal will uncover the east side of Powers Hill, where the Union Army placed artillery to combat Confederates during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The hill is located adjacent to the Baltimore Pike near Cemetery Ridge, across from Spangler’s Spring, but that viewshed is missing, with the non-historic tree growth.

“All of it has grown up in the past 80 to 100 years,” said GNMP historian John Heiser. “You should be able to see all the way to Cemetery Hill and Evergreen Cemetery, without the growth.”

As a result of the tree removal, the area will be more accessible to visitors, who may not otherwise know that monuments are located on the hill. There are a total of five monuments, with two near the base of the hill, and the other three near the crest. The five monuments located on Powers Hill are: the 77th New York Infantry; Rigby’s Battery Monument; Battery E, Penna Light Artillery; the 1st New York artillery; and the Slocum monument.

Powers Hill is situated at the intersection of the Baltimore Pike, south of Gettysburg, and Granite School House Road, which was used by the Union Army in 1863 to move troops, and haul equipment and supplies. Now, visitors are unable to gauge or understand the strategic importance of the hill, with the non-historic trees.

Heiser explained that the hill served as a platform for artillery, with its elevation, as it is located at the base of the Union fishhook. The hill is located within the park’s 6,000-acre boundary.

Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon noted that in addition to the tree removal, the park also plans to demolish a non-historic house that was obtained in the fall of 2010. GNMP Chief of Resource Management Scott Bolitho expects the tree removal to begin by August, and pointed out that crews plan to mobilize within the next week.

Orrtanna-based Pennington Tree Co. has been under contract with the Park Service since 2003, in a contract valued at $569,675. Removal of six acres of trees in the Powers Hill and Spangler’s Spring area will reopen historic views, that gave the Union artillery an advantageous position in participating in the repulse of Confederate infantry from Culp’s Hill, the morning of July 3 in 1863.

The park’s General Management Plan of 1999 aims for the removal of 576 acres of non-historic trees. According to officials, park contractors have removed 324 acres over the last decade. Tree removal is entering its eleventh year at Gettysburg National Military Park, where crews are trying to convert the 6,000-acre battlefield to its Civil War appearance. Park officials estimated previously that the 10-year effort has cost about $2.3 million.

The yearly cuts are subsidized by federal land rehabilatation dollars, allocated by Congress, as well as donations. Park contractors are only able to cut during certain times of the year, to minimize wildlife and environment impacts.

The landscape of the battlefield has changed dramatically since 1863, when the three-day Civil War battle was fought in Gettysburg, resulting in the tree removal program. During the Civil War, there were 898 acres of woodland on the battlefield. Studies from 1993 show that the wooded areas covered 1,974 acres. In the 147 years since the battle, park records show that the landscape has changed significantly, evidenced by the growth of new trees, changes in field dimensions, and the gradual eroding of farm lanes, orchards and fences.

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