Written by Sally Smith, Intern
With the May 18th announcement of an extension of the Murfreesboro Greenway System toward Barfield Park, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the 1980 environmental statement that would contribute to the construction of Murfreesboro’s thirteen miles of Greenway. Such document is the National Park Service’s 185 page “Final Environmental Statement for General Management Plan and Development Concept Plan for the Stones River National Battlefield and Cemetery,” from March of 1980.
In 1980, Murfreesboro had a population of 32,845 and was developing rapidly, especially near and around the Stones River National Battlefield. This development was concerning for the battlefield because at the time only 351 acres were within its boundaries, which was less than a tenth of the 3,700 acres that defined the Battle of Stones River fought from 1862–1863. The extension of Thompson Lane and Manson Pike was particularly worrisome as it cut through what had historically been the battlefield and brought about a significant increase in residential neighborhoods. In response, the National Parks Service drafted plans for the expansion of Stones River National Battlefield’s boundaries. The plans for the acquisition of historic lands were split into nine proposals as they related to particular acquisitions. The draft plan was to acquire 185 acres through simple fees and 77 acres through easement for an expansion of 262 acres.
There is record of legislation authorizing the extension of Stones River National Battlefield going back to 1976, but no legislation regarding the expansion of the battlefield would be passed until over a decade later. On December 23, 1987, A Bill to amend the boundaries of the Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee, and for other purposes, H.R.1994 (1987) would be signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Sponsored by Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN-6), H.R. 1994 was the first of five bills he introduced in Congress relating to the boundaries of Stones River National Battlefield. The passage of this bill allowed the Secretary of the Interior to enter an agreement with the City of Murfreesboro to construct and maintain a trail linking the battlefield with Fortress Rosecrans, which is located within Old Fort Park. Another bill, H.R.3881, was signed into law on December 11, 1991. This bill increased the authority of the Secretary of the Interior over the lands adjacent to the Stones River National Battlefield in addition to expanding the boundaries of the Battlefield.
Within the “Final Environmental Statement on the Stones River National Battlefield,” the City of Murfreesboro’s plan to develop a “historic hike and bikeway trail to connect Old Fort Park with the Union Artillery Site,” is elaborated upon. This biking and hiking trail would become a portion of the Murfreesboro’s 13 mile system of Greenways with 11 trailheads, 2 of which are owned by the battlefield. The cooperation between the National Parks Service and the City of Murfreesboro that allowed for the success of The Murfreesboro Greenway Systems would not have been possible without the expansion of the Stones River National Battlefield.
Sally Smith is a junior at Central Magnet School, and she is interning with the Albert Gore Research Center this summer. Her career aspiration is to work for the U.S. Department of State.