From John Hennessy, NPS:
In a comment yeasterday, reader Todd Berkoff queried about plans for the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania–especially questioning the decision to remove the foot bridge that sits atop the Bloody Angle. As I promised in my response, here is a map of what we plan on doing.
The planning for what is about to happen at the Bloody Angle was done by a multi-disciplinary group of both NPS sorts, local planners, and some interested residents. Our efforts to lay out a new trail at the Bloody Angle was dominantly guided by two things. First, a desire to offer visitors a way to understand both the Union and Confederate perspectives of the battlefield. This entailed giving visitors visual access to the shallow ravine in front of the Bloody Angle. The art we have sharedteh other day is intended for use at that vantage point.
Second, and even more important, was to develop a treatment that would encourage visitors to view and respect the Bloody Angle itself as they would a precious artifact, and thus to enhance its prospects for long-term survival. Part of that entails treating the site with respect ourselves.
The plan envisions a trail system with a crossing of the works at someplace other than the Angle itself. There are three reasons why visitors cross at the Angle. First, we offer no alternative; second we give them a bridge–we virtually beg them to cross there; and third, given the current access only from inside (CS) of the Angle, the monuments beyond the Confederate works are an irresistible attractor. Moreover, we believe the presence of the bridge, which encourages people to cross, is likely the reason the works immediately adjacent to the bridge are among the most deteriorated in the park.
Our plan is to 1) route visitors from the parking area to the monuments first–all on the Union side of the Angle 2) leave no obvious attractor on the other side that would inspire them to walk over the works.. 3) Then cross them 50 yards or so down the works, in the direction of the East Angle. We will combine this with low-scale signage that constantly reminds them of the hallowed nature of the place, urges them to respect it, and not to leave the trail.
By doing this, we hope to remove the reason for having a footbridge right on the Angle itself. There is literally no more intrusive modern component anywhere in our park than the footbridge at the Bloody Angle. It’s a bit like having an exterior elevator shaft to the front facade of the White House. This is arguably the most hallowed place in the park; certainly this is the most precious, evocative stretch of earthworks we have (and perhaps anywhere in North America); to have a bridge literally atop the Angle is something we should all seek to avoid.
So, the big question: will our plan work? We’ll be watching nothing more closely than how people use the new trail (which will be open in the fall or winter). If we find that people ignore all we have done and choose to cross the works regardless, then we’ll be ready to act–even to the point of putting the bridge back. While your concerns about the Angle are well taken, please know that our planning is intended specifically to end the ongoing deterioration of the site–the root of your concerns. We hope that the guidance offered by a more formalized trail, a ready alternative to getting across at the Bloody Angle, and an inspired respect for the site will render a bridge right at the Angle unnecessary. We admit it’s a bit of an experiment, but it’s not a risk. We won’t let it become one. We all take our charge to preserve exceedingly seriously, and rest assured there are no people on earth more devoted to the Bloody Angle’s preservation than we are.