- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) Officials at Antietam National Battlefield are working to restore vast swaths of the park to look like it did in September 1862, when one of the bloodiest battles in American history was fought there.
"Progress is being marked by going backwards in time," said John Howard, Antietam's superintendent.
The battlefield's plan includes buying more land within the park's legislative boundary to restore woods and construct new interpretive facilities.
The federal government owns about 1,722 of the 3,255 acres within the park's boundary. Another 1,000 acres are protected by a scenic easement, Mr. Howard said. Maryland and private landowners control 530 separate acres.
Part of the challenge, Mr. Howard said, has been maintaining relationships with the people who live and work around the battlefield.
"I want to be their friend," he said. "We can't exist as an island here."
The park has taken steps to encourage private owners to sell their land to the government. One enticement is allowing people to remain in their homes rent-free for life.
If owners are not willing to sell, Mr. Howard said, he tries to work with them to protect the integrity of the battlefield. One step short of selling, he said, is getting owners to grant scenic easements.
The park was allocated $2.1 million in 1998 to buy land within its boundaries. It still has $1 million left.
Mr. Howard said the biggest challenge is not buying new land but maintaining the acres it already owns. The restoration includes improving fence lines and historic farmhouses scattered throughout the park.
Roads installed post-1862 will remain in place, Mr. Howard said. Local residents, farmers and tour groups have become too dependent on the modern roads to remove them.
"The War Department put the road system there in 1890 for a purpose," Mr. Howard said.
Detailed landscape studies were conducted to determine the types of trees that stood during the battle, and nearly 40 acres of trees have been replanted, Mr. Howard said. Fruit trees indigenous to the area are growing in Michigan and will be transplanted in about five years.
"We move at glacial speed sometimes," Mr. Howard said. "But we're making progress."

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