Preservation News: South Mountain Battlefield at the Center of Controversial Proposal

On September 14, 1862, portions of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia dueled for possession of three passes through South Mountain in Maryland. A Federal victory, both sides together lost around five thousand casualties in the battle that precluded the single bloodiest day in American history: Antietam. Today, the battlefield sits on land owned and preserved by the State of Maryland. However, that may change.

The War Correspondents Memorial sits in Crampton’s Gap at Gathland State Park and South Mountain Battlefield. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

The Washington Redskins of the National Football League hope to build a new stadium in Prince George’s County, Maryland along the Potomac River. Sadly, the land they hope to develop is currently under control of the U.S. Department of the Interior as Oxon Cove Park.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oxon Cove not only includes the early-19th century Flemish and Italianate Mount Welby home, it also has many historic structures and equipment that tell the history of farming and medicine in the United States. The park is also notable for its natural resources and wildlife.

The trade deal, nonbinding, between Maryland and the U.S. Department of the Interior began in September 2017. If Congress approves and the Department of the Interior trades the tract of land to the State of Maryland for the Washington Redskins, the state’s Department of Natural Resources will then donate South Mountain State Battlefield and Gathland State Park to the National Park Service. The battlefield and park are roughly 2,500 acres in total.

Oxon Cove Park and Farm in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Proponents of the exchange believe the state would increase revenue and attract new businesses and communities. According to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, developing Oxon Cove “has limitless potential, including family attractions, new homes, retail, and businesses that will bring visitors and investment to the state while enriching the surrounding communities.”

However, there are many opponents to this deal, particularly in the name of historic preservation. Audrey Scanlan-Teller of the Central Maryland Heritage League said, “South Mountain battlefield will be mothballed by the NPS because of lack of funding, leaving the story of the battle resulting in more than 5,000 casualties untold, and all the state and private funding and untold hours of effort that went into making the park what it is today will be lost … Maryland already has two NFL stadiums. Oxon Cove Park is a green oasis and farm museum in an area already bursting with development. It is a limited resource that should be preserved and enjoyed by citizens.”

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you all updated. However, in the meantime, what do you think about this proposed trade?

10 Responses to Preservation News: South Mountain Battlefield at the Center of Controversial Proposal

  1. I had to read this twice to be sure I read it correctly. I feel very deeply upset over this. No National park should be traded for ANYTHING. They are national treasures, we preserve them for a reason.

    Let me start by saying I love South Mountain Battlefield. All of the people who have poured their time and love in to that space, it shows. While I wish we could have additional funding, I agree that the National park system would moth ball it. Next to Gettysburg and Antietam it would not get the funding and attention it needs. If it got anything it would be lumped into Antietam as a prequel to the battle, instead of its own remarkable battle.

    As for the stadium- What have the Redskins done that they need a new stadium? Why not demolish the one they have and rebuild, or rehab the existing one? in the last 10 years I have yet to see a Redskins game where the stadium was filled to capacity (I maybe wrong). Something that I think needs to be realized is that DC has a finite amount of space. When that district runs out of space they can not just say “hey I want more space – here I think I will take Maryland” No. If you can not find, in your district a space for a stadium, you do not need it.

    Maryland does not need more People. It needs programs to revitalize the housing that is condemned now. Maryland needs it history. Governor Hogan needs to continue thinking this way as he has done in the past.

  2. Destroy one national park for private development in order to transfer a state park to a national government that’s likely to ignore it? On what planet does that make sense?

    Re-develop the wasteland that RFK Stadium has become (last time I checked, anyway) and bring the Skins bak to the District and the metro. It’ll be easier for all the Amazonites coming to Virginia to get there.

  3. In this country, we don’t renovate existing buildings,facilities; we build new ones and let the existing ones crumble from neglect. In Ft. Myers, Jet Blue stadium was built to accommodate the new home of the Red Sox. The existing City of Palms park is mostly vacant, used sparingly for some minor baseball events. Yes, it needed to be upgraded but why do that when you can get a brand new, shiny stadium. I am tired of atheltic “temples” being built while temples that encompass the spirits of our dead are paved over for convenience. Sorry. I must be getting old and crotchety. Either that or “misplaced priorities.”

  4. This is one of my pet peeves! These cities want the sports franchises and build massive new stadiums to attract them, then finance them on the backs of out-of-town visitors. Business and vacation travelers, who seldom attend games, or use the facilities, end up paying “stadium financing” taxes when they use the airport, rent cars, stay in hotel rooms,etc. The locals, many of whom snap up season tickets, and fill up the new athletic “temple”, as an earlier poster described it, making it hard for visitors to find tickets should they decide to partake of that activity. The last time I flew into Baltimore, and paid these extra fees, was for a multi day visit to Antietam, Monocasy and Harper’s Ferry. Going to a ball game in town never even made the radar. I say, leave our parks and green spaces alone, let the local sports affecianados pay for the stadiums they use. Once they start footing the bill, maybe renovating the old stadium will look more attractive.

  5. I love sports, but I love history so much more! I still ache over the destruction of Yankee Stadium. It should have been restored, brought up to code–and then developed to give a fan a real historical experience leading right up to a modern ball team.

    This proposal for another ball park is just wrong–NO! on every level–even the cheap seats.

  6. Can’t these people realize that once the parks are gone they are gone forever. There is no looking back saying “Gee I wish we saved it. Parks were put there not for us but for all the people yet to come. Look at Seven Pines, GONE, Chantilly, GONE, and the list goes on and on. We dont need more deveopment but preserving our land and history. How can we fight these bastards who hate our history. I live near a battlfield and love to visit, and I protect it as best i can. I pick up litter when I see it and join with others to help with trails and maintenance. People love our parks. Refurbish the stadium and stay away from our wonderful parks.

  7. Thank you for spreading the word about this proposed travesty. I am Audrey Scanlan-Teller and I oppose trading battlefields for football fields. It serves as a huge injustice to the American soldiers who fought and died fighting for their beliefs only to serve as a commodity that can be traded at will by our current elected officials.

  8. I live on South Mountain near the Battlefield. I actually had to call NPS to come mow the Reno Monument because it was so overgrown, visitors had to wade through eye high grass. If they don’t care abut a 30 by 30 foot monument (a small federal annex), I would worry about the entire park.
    DNR does a great job maintaining the park and its history as well as managing the hunting and no hunting areas.

    The Redskins can find an alternative spot for their stadium.

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