One of the most tangible ways to help with battlefield preservation is to get involved with the Civil War Trust’s annual Park Day. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Park Day, which will be held on Saturday, April 2.
“History buffs, community leaders, preservationists and other volunteers will fan out across more than 125 historic sites in 29 states for a spring cleanup at America’s battlefields and historic sites,” the Trust said in a press release. “Armed with trash bags, rakes, weed whackers and paint brushes, this corps of community-minded citizens can use your help in sprucing up these national treasures.”
According to the release, Park Day expands this year to more Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites than ever before, as part of its Campaign 1776 initiative. From Gettysburg to Guilford Courthouse, and Resaca to River Raisin, Park Day participants will tackle maintenance tasks large and small.
For a complete list of participating Park Day sites, visit Civilwar.org/parkday. Volunteers can participate in Park Day online using #ParkDay2016.
New this year at the Wilderness, the Trust is sponsoring a “Generations” event. “Help instill a lifelong passion for history by bringing your son, daughter, niece, neighbor or friend as we walk in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers in the actual Wilderness,” the Trust explains. “Help instill, as well, a passion for preservation by volunteering in the morning at Park Day.” Participants in the Generations event grab a musket, learn soldiers’ drill, replicate their movements, serve on an artillery crew, and see how soldiers camped.
“Park Day volunteers are critically important to historic sites that must balance basic maintenance needs with limited budgets and small staffs,” says Trust President James Lighthizer. “Neglect and deferred repairs can be as much a threat to historic sites as development. Visitors really do notice the difference after our legions of volunteers pitch in and clean up!”
Since 1996, thousands of volunteers of all ages and abilities, including Scouts, Rotarians, Lions Club members, church groups, ROTC units, youth groups and many others, have taken part in Park Day.
Besides picking up trash, activities can include building trails, raking leaves, painting signs, putting up fences and other tasks. In addition to the satisfaction that volunteer work brings, participants receive official Park Day T-shirts and have an opportunity to hear local historians describe the significance of the participating site.
In 2015, nearly 8,000 volunteers converged on more than 100 sites across the country, where they donated more than 35,000 service hours. With your help, we can do even more this year. Every trash bag that goes to the dump, every fence that is painted and every tree that is planted, leaves each site better prepared for the tourists who will visit this year to experience their heritage.
Keeping America’s hallowed grounds pristine is a fitting tribute not only to those who served in the early conflicts of American history, but to all soldiers who serve and protect our country. These preserved historic sites are outdoor classrooms, teaching young and old alike about the sacrifices made to forge this nation.