Thursday, Aug 4, 2005
The massive federal transportation bill just approved by Congress includes $3 million to add 34 acres to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. The addition would be the largest to the park since the original properties were pieced together in the 1930s and 1940s. The privately-owned property adjoining the battlefield's northern border has a portion of the remains of a 24-gun cannon emplacement built by Union troops to bombard Confederate positions in 1864. Park planners are talking about connecting the property to the hiking trail system and possibly creating a stop on the mapped car tour of the Cobb County battlefield. The land belongs to Sam Hensley, a former state legislator who has agreed to sell the land for $3.6 million. State and local authorities would have to raise the $600,000 difference. "I'm pretty confident that won't be an insurmountable problem," said superintendent Dan Brown. The $286 billion, six-year national highway funding bill includes about $7.5 billion in projects for Georgia. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who lives in Marietta, helped get the money for the battlefield land into the bill, which was passed by Congress last week and is expected to be signed into law by President Bush. Hensley's selling price is half or less of what nearby land is bringing. "One $100,000 an acre is pretty good. I know of acreage right in front of the park going for $400,000 an acre, because I just saw the sign," said Barry Brown, coordinator for the state-appointed Georgia Civil War Commission. "At the rate that Cobb County is being developed, saving an area like this is an outstanding historical preservation victory." That's a change, he said, because Civil War site preservationists feel a lot like the Confederate army during the Atlanta Campaign in 1864. They keep losing their fights. Former farmland and forests around the 2,889 preserved acres of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park are being developed at a quickening pace. Recently, preservationists lost their efforts to buy Hays Farm, just west of the park, where 75 homes priced at $500,000 and up are being built. They've lost other sites as well to the higher prices that developers can offer. The Civil War Preservation Trust recently named the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park as one of the most threatened sites in the country. In 2002, preservationists saved 4.3 acres around historic Kolb Farm at the southern end of the park. Hensley first bought land adjoining the park in 1957 and added to it over the years. He owns about 68 acres, where he and his three children have homes. "I get about a proposal a month from developers wanting to buy it," Hensley said. One of his children recently told him that in a matter of years the park will be like Central Park in New York City --- a green island completely bordered by development. "The family always wanted to keep it as open space and part of the park," Hensley said. "So over the last two years, we've been working with the Trust for Public Land and reached an agreement." The Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit group that helps broker deals to preserve historic, rural and ecologically sensitive land. "I can't think of a better owner than to have the National Park Service own it," Hensley said. "And pay the taxes on it."