January 3, 2021, Brett Garner, RCHS Volunteer
Most all of us are at least aware of the park which is Stones River National Battlefield. What you may not have yet heard about is the 48-acre recent expansion of the park. This feat was made possible with grants from the American Battlefield Trust, donations from the Friends of Stones River National Battlefield, and the generosity of O’Reilly Auto Parts. The auto parts retailer had previously planned to construct a new distribution facility on the property where the General Electric manufacturing facility stood until the Good Friday tornado of 2009.
Plans for this property acquisition began as far back as 1992 through the efforts of then US Congressman for the district, Bart Gordon. Throughout the lengthy process of making this idea a realty, multiple community leaders and individuals have been committed to seeing it through to completion. Recognition is due to the efforts of people like Mike Lyles, Kent Syler, Jim Lewis, Brenda Waters, Gibb Backlund, and others.
The significance of this expansion of the park is impactful to the community on so many levels beyond the preservation of the site’s historical importance. As far as the strategic importance during the battle of Stones River, the area comprises the site known as Hell’s Half Acre and represents the Union Army’s left flank. As we look more broadly, the addition of this land gives the community protected green space which also gives us environmental diversity exampled by places like the cedar glades. We also benefit from an ecological standpoint. These protected lands provide valuable habitat for a multitude of fauna. The Stones River itself gleans something from the deal as more riverbank will be left undeveloped, allowing the watershed relief from manmade pollutants which endanger the waterway today.
We are fortunate to have an over 700 park so readily accessible that will also be preserved for future generations.