By Valerie Baldowski
The Henry County Board of Commissioners wants the 204-acre Nash Farm Battlefield Park developed under a master plan.
Deliberations on the property have been months in the making, and the board as a whole decided it needed to put the Nash Farm planning project out to bid last summer.
After reviewing the bid proposals, the county recommended awarding a contract last Tuesday to Lose and Associates to prepare a master plan, incorporating a range of park and recreational activities, at a cost of $19,500.
According to a document presented to commissioners and prepared by the Henry County Assistant County Manager Michael Sabine, the money is available in the county's general fund.
A master plan is always prepared for each proposed park in the county, said Commission Chairwoman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis. The plan incorporates expert advice on where to place each amenity in the park and helps in long-range planning efforts, she said.
"The thing you don't want to do is put an amenity in the wrong place," Mathis said.
Some elements officials are considering include paved walking trails, playgrounds consistent in size with other regional county parks, bike trails, an equestrian trail, a covered picnic pavilion, a native-heirloom plant garden and a bird habitat. Because of the size of the park and the economic cost to do the work, the enhancements will be done gradually.
Placing amenities in the wrong location could require moving them later, said Mathis.
The county is getting help with some of the work at the park. A group of retired military personnel is working with the Parks and Recreation Department to renovate the Nash Family House on the property into a military museum, at no cost to the county.
The Friends of Nash Farm, a volunteer group, will also work to renovate the Zachry House into a museum housing artifacts found during an archeological study done on the battlefield in 2007.
"We have well over 1,000 artifacts uncovered," said Mathis. "Those will be displayed in the Zachry House upon completion."
Several county commissioners voiced support for the gradual and cautious additions the plan outlines.
The county bought the park for $8 million several years ago, said District I Commissioner Warren Holder, and should protect its investment. "With the amount we have invested in Nash Farm, we would be derelict in our duties as county commissioners not to adopt a master plan," said Holder. "The development of the park will take many, many years."
The makeup of the board of commissioners will change over time, but the completion of the park's enhancements could take between 30 and 50 years, he added.
Mark Pollard, Henry County's official historian, favors the idea of the native-heirloom plant garden, bird habitat and walking trails proposed for the Nash Farm Battlefield. He said the proposed landscape is important in preserving the park's historical content.
"The only way it could be spoiled would be if you built a strip mall there," he said.
The walking trails are good, Pollard explained, because they would attract visitors with interests other than the Civil War.
"If the plans benefit the community as a whole and it educates students without disturbing the historical landscape, then I'm all for it," he said.