GETTYSBURG, Pa. — As part of a project to return key portions of the battlefield to their 1863 appearance, the Gettysburg National Military Park is getting ready to remove the old Visitors Center parking lot on North Cemetery Ridge.
Preparations are now underway for C.E. Williams, a contractor for the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation, to tear out the parking lot's asphalt, regrade the area to its historic profile and plant meadow grasses.
The park expects this phase of the project to begin in February and take approximately two to three months to completion, depending on the weather.
Volunteers will then build historically-accurate fencing on the site during the Gettysburg Foundation's Friends of Gettysburg annual volunteer day in June.
Park officials do not anticipate removing the old Visitor Center parking lot, which is often closed, will have any effect on visitors' ability to find parking, park service spokesperson Katie Lawhon said.
The restoration of the parking lot area is part of a larger project by the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation to return areas of the Union battle line on North Cemetery Ridge to their appearance at the time of the battle.
Completed phases of the project include the demolition of the old visitors center in 2009, planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010 and the demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013.
"These rehabilitation projects allow us to place more and more puzzle pieces together on the battlefield," said Zach Bolitho, acting superintendent of the park, in a news release. "They improve integrity of the battlefield landscapes and improve our visitors' understating of what happened at Gettysburg and why it's so important."
Using donor contributions, the Gettysburg Foundation is funding the approximate $400,000 cost of this phase of the project, which includes general contracting, construction management and design costs.
The park will retain the National Cemetery South parking lot, formerly known as the Cyclorama parking lot, for visitor use. Some modifications to this lot are planned in a future phase of the project.
Additional planned phases of the rehabilitation of Cemetery Ridge include reconstructing a commemorative era pathway and moving five monuments — the Fifth U.S. Artillery Battery F tablet, the 90th Pa. Infantry monument, the 88th Pa. Infantry monument, the First Mass. Sharpshooters position marker and the 12th Mass. Infantry monument — to their historic locations.
These features were altered during the construction of the Cyclorama building in the early 1960s.
The park also plans to recreate Ziegler's Ravine and plant more trees in Ziegler's Grove.