Archive for Sunday, December 15, 2002

Friends of Black Jack discuss promotion of site

December 15, 2002

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Fresh off a supportive vote from the Douglas County Commission, Friends of Black Jack Battlefield met Saturday to organize into committees and discuss ways to develop and preserve the site near Baldwin.

In a brainstorming session, the group of about 25 people suggested such ideas as making an educational CD, lobbying legislators for support and finding financial means for archaeological research of the pre-Civil War battle site.

National park potential also was suggested for the 20-acre area along the south side of U.S. Highway 56.

"Considering the importance of the site to American history, I don't think it's unreasonable," said organization president Kerry Altenbernd.

Attendees agreed the battlefield, where shots were exchanged in 1856, was central to the history of the Civil War in Kansas. In addition, it may be instrumental in the future designation of a National Heritage Area stretching from Fort Scott to the Nebraska border and out to Fort Riley.

"Douglas County is the heart of Bleeding Kansas," said Karl Gridley, who attended the all-day conference. "It's kind of the Free State capital."

Also discussed at the event was a way to find common ground between those who want to preserve the sight and nearby landowners worried about property values and development rights.

A Wednesday vote by the county commission to support an effort to add Black Jack Battlefield to the National Register of Historic Places was controversial because of a Kansas law that requires review by the state's historic preservation officer of any project requiring a government permit on property within 1,000 feet of a recognized landmark.

"We don't want it to be a battle again," Gridley said.

Ramon Powers, the recently retired executive director of the Kansas State Historical Society, spoke at the meeting at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

He reminded the group that getting on the historic register gains only recognition. Then the trick is to develop the site in a way that provides an interpretation for visitors.

Friends of Black Jack Battleground tentatively plan to meet again Jan. 25.

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