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Antietam Battlefield's Piper Lane To Be Restored

Deborah Fitts

- (October 2007) SHARPSBURG, Md. - A long-overgrown historic laneway at the heart of Antietam National Battlefield will come to life again as part of the park's growing pedestrian trail system.

Restoration of the Piper Farm Lane will begin this fall, boosted by a $5,000 donation from the nonprofit Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF).

"This is the heart of the battlefield and a place that most folks don't get to see," said Joe Calzarette, the park's natural resources manager. "Bloody Lane is just over the hill. The Piper House was [Confederate Gen. James] Longstreet's headquarters. This was the thick of the action going back and forth."

The park will restore the lane for 2,060 feet, starting at the Piper House off Hagerstown Pike and running east to the park tour road Richardson Avenue, near the avenue's exit onto Boonsboro Pike.

Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof noted that the Piper Lane project is part of a multi-year plan to return the park closer to its 1862 appearance. An associated project is restoration of the Piper Farm orchard, which began four years ago. This fall the park will plant a final 176 fruit trees, completing three-quarters of the original 17-acre planting.

Restoration projects are spaced out over the years as funds come available, Wenschhof said, and the laneway was originally slated for 2009. But SHAF's donation will pay for nearly half the $12,000 cost of fencing, prompting the park to advance the work. Volunteers will assist with labor.

SHAF President Tom Clemens said his group decided to support the Piper Lane project because the new trail will "link the north end of the battlefield to the south end. We felt advancing that was important."

"A lot of people just go to the Sunken Road and that's it," Clemens added. "This is going to open up a part of the field that people haven't had access to."

The Piper Farm Lane has been little more than an "alleyway for cattle" since the park acquired the land 40 years ago, according to Wenschhof. But in the mid-1800s, along with the neighboring farm road now known as Bloody Lane, the Piper Farm road would have been relatively busy with traffic to and from Newcomer Mill along nearby Antietam Creek.

The Piper Farm Lane "will be the Confederate side of the story," Wenschhof said.

For 1,000 feet from Hagerstown Pike to the Piper house, the old farm lane continues to serve as a driveway. But east of the house the 20-foot-wide track degenerates into a jungle of grass, weeds, brush, partially eroded slopes and barbed-wire fencing.

Wenschhof said the restoration will include a five-rail, split-rail fence on either side, brush clearing, erosion control, and establishment of a walking surface using grass or gravel where appropriate.

The new lane will be part of an ambitious plan under way by Superintendent John Howard to create walking trails throughout the park that bring visitors onto the battle landscape. In the last couple of years the park has added the Final Attack and Snaveley Connector trails, for a total of 3 miles, the half-mile Union Advance and the West Woods trail at 1.5 miles. Wayside markers are planned.

SHAF is planning a work day at the park Nov. 10, open to any and all volunteers. Those interested in participating may go to the organization's Web site at www.shaf.org for details.

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