Karen Ruetz, left, and Maureen Krivo after they finished walking a trail at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Kennesaw, Georgia on Friday, February 15, 2019. A bill, designed to expand the park, has passed the Senate. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: Emily Haney/emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: Emily Haney/emily.haney@ajc.com

After years, cautious optimism for Kennesaw national park expansion

The most recent bid to expand Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park crossed an important hurdle when it passed the Senate this week, raising hopes that the measure will be finally be signed into law after a decade of attempts.

The Kennesaw Mountain changes are part of a sweeping public-lands bill, introduced by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, that would preserve millions of acres across the country and create new national monuments.

The bill would expand the park by eight acres, to include the Wallis House and Harriston Hill, sites of historical interest for their role in the Civil War. That land is currently owned by Cobb County and the Cobb Land Trust.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk, a Republican who represents the area, has introduced a similar proposal twice in the past only to see it fizzle out due, he said, to partisan politics.

Loudermilk said he was “optimistic” this time would be different because the bill originated in the Senate rather than the House, giving it a greater chance of passing both houses.

“It sounds pretty good right now, but this thing has been held up so many times in the past that I’m not declaring victory yet,” Loudermilk said, but added, “We see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Loudermilk said he would particularly like to see Wallis House and Harriston Hill open to the public.

The house, which dates to the mid-1800’s, was used at different times by both Union and Confederate troops as either a hospital or headquarters. It’s in disrepair and overgrown by foliage.

The Wallis House in Cobb County, a Civil War historical site. (The AJC)

The hill was used as a signal tower by the Union Army as it approached Atlanta according to the Land Trust.

Transferring the land from the county to the National Park Service would allow it to be developed as a historical site and connected to the rest of the park by paths.

It would also take the property off the county’s ledgers. Cobb purchased the property in 2003 for $200,000 using a mix of local greenspace funds and state money made available through the Georgia Civil War Commission. The intention was to preserve it as a public historical site and donate it to the National Parks Service.

Visitors to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park on a recent overcast morning welcomed news of the possible expansion.

“Any time we can expand and have more greenspace instead of all this real estate taking over, I’m definitely interested,” said James Wynne, a retired Internal Revenue Service employee from East Cobb who’s been visiting the park for 23 years.

Steve Upshaw, a medical hardware salesman from Marietta, said he’s only driven by the Wallis House and would like to visit.

“I travel a lot for work and I tell everyone, ‘When you come to Cobb County, you have to come to Ken-Mo,’—that’s what I call it,” said Upshaw, who’s out hiking the trails at 6:30 every morning, weather permitting. “I love this park.”

Maureen Krivo, a writer from Kennesaw, said she would rather see a park expansion than “more McMansions” go up.

“We are very lucky,” to have such a nice park, she said.

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