BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – What is now being dubbed the battlefield park, currently under construction on Fort Madison’s east end, was approved by a state historical preservation group Friday.
According to Andy Andrews, president of the North Lee County Historical Society, the Iowa Historical Preservation Board approved the application for the War of 1812 Battlefield park. It can now be presented for a designation to the National Register of Historical Places through the National Park Service.
“This will open up some grants and additional funding for us,” Andrews said.
He said the group worked up an application for the Historical Board preservation nomination board.
“Angela Collins with the state archeology office prepared that for us and because of all the digs there and Dr. (Eugene) Watkins’ research, ours only drew one comment,” Andrews said. “I was happy with that because the other seven that were nominated have to go back and clean up their paperwork. But they were all approved, ours just didn’t have as much debate.”
Andrews also said he was happy that one of the Battlefield park’s benefactors covered the cost of the application process.
“Christy Rickers paid for that for us. She’s the one that put us over the top on purchasing the land. Every time I see her I almost tear up,” Andrews said.
The $500,000 park project is located south of Avenue G between 4th and 5th streets. Earlier this year the land was grated up and sand and dirt were added and the lot was leveled out to prepare it for grass seeding.
Andrews said he would’ve liked to have the lot disked on Saturday, but the ground was very dry until this weekend. So he’s hoping they can get that work done shortly. He said it may have also been too dry to plant the trees. The first trees in will be a windbreak on the west side of the park.
“We hope to have the grass seed planted yet this month and maybe have the flag pole in the center erected yet this fall,” Andrews said.
The group is still taking donations and they can be mailed to P.O. Box 285, Fort Madison, Iowa 52627.
With the state approval the plan will now go directly to the National Park Service for approval at a similar meeting in November in Washington D.C. where, if approved, it would be announced in December that they have been added to the National Register of Historical Places.
“Once that designation is made and we get that bronze plaque down there that opens us up for grants and everything from state Historic Preservation Office to Vision Iowa, and the American Battlefield Association,” he said. “It just opens up grants and enables us to get the replica War of 1812 tombstones for the 22 soldiers of the 1st Infantry unit buried in that location. I should say in that area because we don’t know exactly where they’re buried.”
The park has also been awarded a $4,150 Trees Forever Grant through Alliant Energy. Andrews said he doesn’t really know how many trees that will supply, but it will enable the park group to get started on the windbreak on the west side of the park and then additional trees as the design comes together.
He said any other grant funds secured will probably go for the Interpretation Center that is planned as part of the final piece of the park. The group hopes to have the park completed by 2020.