OPINION: Is it important to preserve historical sites?

As farms have given way to subdivisions and commercial development, it was inevitable that the growth should affect the Pea Ridge National Military Park.

The 4,300-acre park, established in 1956, encompasses about 90% of the land on which the two-day conflict known as the Battle of Pea Ridge took place in March 1862.

After the battle, after the war, the local residents resumed their lives, farming their land and raising their children. For the next nearly 100 years, people told stories about the conflict, what they or their relatives had endured or seen.

To establish the park, people gave up their farms that had been in their families for generations. Some moved elsewhere in the country. Some moved to Pea Ridge. Some of the houses were moved to Pea Ridge and are still there.

Even in 1980, there were people who remembered hearing their grandparents' stories about the battle and the difficulties that followed.

We alive now have not endured a war, a battle on our homeland. We have no true concept of the destruction and devastation wrought by that.

A former superintendent at PRNMP, John Scott, used to say it was essential that we study history to learn from it and to not make the same mistakes.

Several military exercises were held on the battleground park training modern soldiers as they evaluated the strategies of the historical soldiers.

Pea Ridge is growing. Some like that. Some don't. Community leaders need to step up and put their heads together to consider what they want to see here in five, 10, 15 years. What do they want the atmosphere of the city, the larger community to be? And, how do they plan to fund it?

City officials heard a presentation from the manager of the Bentonville Advertising and Promotion Commission. One point she made was to determine what we have to offer -- what is the drawing card to elicit tourists and new residents?

Many years ago, Fran Mainella, former director of the National Park Service, praised the leadership and foresight of the Pea Ridge National Military Park saying it was the most pristine historical park in the nation. (No golden arches could be seen from the park property.)

What does the future hold for PRNMP, for Pea Ridge, for northeastern Benton County? What will you do to help?


Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected].