Coweta’s Brown’s Mill Battlefield park will be getting larger, and a network of running and walking trails is in the works.
The park is expanding by 67 acres in a land swap with the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority.
In exchange, the authority is getting 77 acres off Happy Valley Circle, adjacent to the B.T. Brown Reservoir. That’s property the county bought in 2004 for future recreation.
The land swap was approved Wednesday by the authority board, and in August by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners. The exchange is set to become official Oct. 2.
The land adjacent to the battlefield is part of 403 acres that the authority purchased in 2008 and 2009 for a future drinking water reservoir. The authority no longer has plans to build a reservoir there.
The proposed reservoir would not have provided enough water to make the project worthwhile.
“The yield just wasn’t there,” authority CEO Jay Boren said Wednesday.
The land the authority is getting from the county will increase the buffer at B.T. Brown, he said.
“We felt like the swap was fair and it helped us with our buffer at the reservoir," Boren said.
Members of the Brown’s Mill Battlefield Association pushed for the acquisition of more land to expand the battlefield site, Boren said. The cavalry battle, which took place July 30, 1864, ranged over a much larger area than the property the county owns.
“We are just thrilled beyond compare,” said Carolyn Tuner, president of the Brown’s Mill Battlefield Association. “That means this property is now preserved, and there won’t be any housing development on the immediate battlefield.
“It’s extremely important to us,” Turner added. “Men were killed all over that property."
The decision not to build the reservoir also means a better chance of the battlefield site getting on the National Register of Historic Places.
Several years ago, the association’s application for National Register of Historic Places status was rejected, because so much of the site of the battle was planned to be under water.
“They wouldn’t even touch it,” Turner said. “As soon as they took the reservoir off the table, we were just thrilled because that means that we could start on the process again.”
An initial application was submitted in August 2017, and the association got a response from the state preservation office in April.
The response “included all of the things that needed to be changed, that needed to be added,” Turner said.
The application for National Register status is extensive, and the format has changed since the original application several years ago.
“There are new maps and many more photographs,” Turner said. “A lot of stuff has had to be changed."
Now, the organization will be able to add the additional 68 acres of preserved land to the application.
Once the state office approves an application, it’s sent to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
The battlefield association has been working to build a network of running and walking trails on the existing battlefield property and the new property. The idea has been in the works for several years.
“There is so much property back in the woods. Nobody ever goes back there,” Turner said. “We need to be able to invite people to come out here and use this property."
So they began to look around and figure out where existing logging roads and old trails were. The association’s vice president, Danny Spivey, is familiar with the property so he put together a map, Turner said. Their group decided to develop them into running and walking trails.
Several trails have already been laid out and linked up, but signage is still needed.
“We want to make sure that our signage is clear so that somebody won’t get lost,” Turner said.
She’s also spoken to school system officials to see about having local cross country teams or coaches come check out the trails to see if any additional work needs to be done.
“We want to have it like it is supposed to be from the standpoint of the runners,” Turner said.
The trail work is being funded by a fair grant from the Newnan Kiwanis Club.
Turner said the county commissioners have always been supportive of the battlefield association.
“I can’t say that enough – how much respect they show for the battlefield and how much they include us in things,” Turner said.
Turner said there are plans for a grand opening of the trail system sometime in October, once the property transfer is complete.
This is the second land swap the county has undertaken recently – both related to properties on Happy Valley Circle.
Last year, the county entered into an agreement with the Coweta County Board of Education to trade county land next to Madras Middle School for the historic Madras School property on U.S. Highway 29.
Both county tracts on Happy Valley Circle were initially purchased for recreation purposes.