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Developing Tour Stops - A Dilemma

Interpretive Stop at Wilson's Creek

Those who know me, or have been on either of the recent tours in Cynthiana, probably know that interpretation and developing a rewarding self-guided tour, sans CD, is high on my personal list of items to accomplish within the workings of the Foundation.

I have conversations with other board members, and we are definitely wanting some sort of “finalized” tour laid out, but I keep coming across the voices in my head arguing back and forth about how developed a tour we need/want/should have.

In an effort to create tours that flow chronologically as well that add sites that are salient to the complete story (such as we can tell it based on land ownership and extant sites), we have several options to consider, and that is what makes developing a full interpretation plan a challenge.

If we are able to actually tell a more complete story, we would need to have both tours be a combination of walking and driving. The first battle, to capture Morgan's main avenue of approach, and to visit the covered bridge and Confederate artillery sites on the south side of the river, can only be accessed via vehicle at this time. Until a footbridge can be constructed across the river at the covered bridge site, a decision needs to be made on how interpretation will be handled. Do we want a walking tour that skips out on potential and important sites? Do we want to develop tour routes that could be changed within a few years as we move to preserve land? If we cobbled together a more detailed tour than the driving tour CD, based on what we have access to at this moment, the interpretation materials would have to be changed, such as brochures, apps, directional signs, etc. Do we want to put out a short term solution knowing that we will most likely have to change the tour in the future? That is the driving question.

First of all, let’s think big while we are thinking about tours and future interpretation. While we’ll never have four thousand acres of government land to develop park access roads and install thousands of tablets, monuments, and markers, we can still try to emulate, albeit on a smaller scale, what some other parks, particularly those of a national status, have been able to accomplish. Go to Gettysburg and take a look at the interpretation. Hospital sites, mortuary sites, and even where the first shot (allegedly) took place are all marked. Houses in town have historic plaques on them. The overall tour is fairly decent for following the action in a sequential manner. Guided tours there can cover all sorts of topics, whether it is where Lee took a poop to army approach routes to , well, you name it. While we might not have all those types of sites, we certainly have some stories to tell, as well as the ability to make the tourist experience a miniature version of what they would expect and have come to expect from the larger parks.

Let’s take 1862 as a starting point. In my feeble mind (or my grandiose one) I would make this a combination driving/walking tour. The first stop could be the Court House, where we could install a kiosk that covers the Civil War in Kentucky from an overall view – the geographic importance of Kentucky, the background leading up to the actions at Cynthiana, etc. The kiosk would also have materials about the Foundation along with brochures (or a mini-magazine/guide) that would detail driving directions to each stop as well as other things to see. A great spot for this would be in the southwestern corner of the Court House property, an unused corner under a nice shade tree. Idyllic setting to welcome visitors to the area.

From the Court House, we should take tourists to the intersection of US 62 and Wornall Lane. There we could create a small pull off (large enough for a tour bus) with at least two interpretive panels. One panel could cover the 1862 raid and the other 1864, covering the raids up to that point, as well as the splitting of Morgan’s command at that location for both battles.

From there we head to the covered bridge location (where the current stop is located). Two panels here again, one for 1862 discussing the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry’s efforts to take the bridge, the other would cover 1864. Heading from here a short distance into the park, a panel that covers Morgan’s 6-pounders (and could have a second panel covering Civil War artillery in general) close to the high ground on which they deployed.

Next stop? The covered bridge from the north side (grassy area where we stopped for both tours). At least one panel here to cover the defense of the river by the home guard. A short distance away would be another panel for the fighting around the Crown Jewel building.

Next site? A viewshed from Magee Hill overlooking the town. Here is where Gano’s command could be interpreted, both his approach and the brush with the home guard.

Heading to the railroad depot site, another panel, with stories of Grenfell and others. Of course an 1864 panel would be here as well, with a story about Captain Berry’s wounding with his son on the Rebel side.

Near the New Rankin House, a panel that talks about Glass’s artillery, as it was captured while trying to deploy in front on the house along Pike Street. There would be an 1864 panel here, and perhaps another panel with the Desha-Kimbrough feud.

Which way to go now? Nix’s command needs a panel. Do we head north on Main Street and place a panel near the old cemetery as part of Nix’s command deployed on either side of Main and pushed south towards the Court House? Another part of the command bumped into the 7th Kentucky Cavalry close to the Episcopal Church area. Two panels near the church, one about the fighting and the other about the church as a hospital? Or Nix’s panel near Camp Frazer since they came across from the Keller’s dam area?

Of course, if we get a foot bridge across the river this would change things a bit. It could go more to a walking tour, but we could still have the panels along 62 at Wornall, just not make them a part of the official stops.

If we leave things as they are, we would have the court house, north bridge site, Crown Jewel, Depot site, New Rankin, church, and as an add on the old cemetery. If we go this way now, short term, there could be quite the amount of changes needed to do a more fully developed long term tour.

See the quandary? And once we add on 1864, with several locations shared, it increases the amount of consideration as well as potential confusion, which is what we have with the current CD. One thing to help, the 1862 panels would have a different color scheme than the 1864.

So, do we go for something now, something that I believe will need to be changed and expanded upon in the future to tell the stories "properly", or do we try to lay the foundation to develop a long term plan and take the interpretation as a slower, but potentially richer, pace? If a footbridge could be built, it really would not change the 1862 tour much, and that tour could stay a walking tour, taking out the Wornall Lane and Magee Hill stops, and adding Gano’s command story to interpretation near the depot and Rankin House locations.


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