By Wendy Swanson
Saturday, March 12, 2022
Visitors to Gettysburg this summer will miss out on the glorious sunset views seen from Little Round Top. The site will be closed for 12-18 months for a rehabilitation project.
All roads to Gettysburg lead to history, not only that of the battle fought there but also that of the Sixteenth President who, in his iconic address, honored the soldiers who “gave the last full measure of devotion.” During the conflict, President Lincoln closely monitored the action in the field, spending hours at the War Department, reading dispatches from the field. On July 4, 1863, in a telegraph from the War Department, he shared his news and thoughts with the country:
The President announces to the country that news from the Army of the Potomac, up to 10 p.m. of the 3rd. is such as to cover that Army with the highest honor, to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many gallant fallen. And that for this, he especially desires that on this day, He whose will, not ours, should ever be done, be everywhere remembered and reverenced with profoundest gratitude. ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Most visitors to Gettysburg take the opportunity to tour the battlefield. However, in the coming months visitors will not be able to experience the “complete” battlefield experience. The National Park Service has announced upcoming temporary closures of two of the most visited spots on the battlefield tour – Little Round Top and Devil’s Den – for rehabilitative work.
The Devil’s Den closure will begin Monday, March 21 and will extend for a period of five to six months. The Little Round Top closure will commence following a notification period after the awarding of bids later this spring and will last for an estimated 12 - 18 months.
Both sites show the impact of heavy visitation. Erosion and resulting safety hazards have occurred along existing walkways as well as those “informal trails” established by the visitors themselves. Parking and accessibility are additional challenges for visitors, especially at Little Round Top. The closures will allow rehabilitative work to take place at both locations.
The first phase of the Round Top rehabilitation project, selective tree cutting, took place in February. Northern long-eared and Indiana bats, both on the federal endangered species list, have the potential to roost in the trees and forests around Little Round Top (who knew!). Completion of the cutting activities had to take place before early spring, the anticipated arrival of the bats.
That project is now in the bid process. During this time, the National Park Service will receive formal bids from interested contractors. There are two separate contracts within the overall rehabilitation project: 1) overall construction and 2) re-vegetation of Little Round Top. After formal bids are received, the National Park Service will review them in accordance with federal standards. Once the bid(s) have been awarded, there will be at least a 30-day notice of the Little Round Top closure. Gettysburg National Military Park will provide a press release on the subject as well as appropriate online updates. The Park Service emphasizes that Little Round Top will be Closed during this period.
The Devil’s Den project is set to start in just days. While the Den itself (shown to the left) will be closed for five to six months, Crawford Avenue, Sickles Avenue, and the Devil’s Den parking area will remain open as much as possible for visitor use. (Adjacent battlefield locations, such as the Slaughter Pen, Devil’s Kitchen, and the Triangular Field, will all remain open.) The construction contractor will occasionally need to close all road access around the area in order to further facilitate the project. All road closure notices will be updated to the park website and social media platforms with as much notice as possible at www.nps.gov/gett. Visitors to Gettysburg will be wise to check this link before making travel plans to learn the latest status on these projects and to determine if the sites are available for visitation. The above link provides updates on both projects.
The rehabilitation of Little Round Top will address overwhelmed parking areas, poor accessibility and degraded vegetation as well as significant erosion and safety hazards. This project will also enhance the visitor experience with improved interpretive signage, new accessible trail alignments, and gathering areas.
The scope of both projects will reestablish, preserve, and protect the features that make up these segments of the battlefield landscape. These improvements will allow visitors to better immerse themselves into the historic landscape that is essential to understanding the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
(Photo credits: Little Round Top: National Park Service; Devil's Den: Library of Congress)