I mentioned the other day that I have been following the anniversary of the Maryland Campaign with great interest. This coming week come the sesquicentennial events of South Mountain (the 14th) and Harper’s Ferry (the 15th). A week from tomorrow is Antietam’s 150th. Every year when we visit we are struck by the ever increasing urban sprawl in Washington County. The McMansions are now just a few miles down I-65 from the Antietam battlefield. Sprawl is a complicated issue, especially in the Greater Washington area with its expanding population. One would like to save as much land as possible; on the other hand, people have a right to live where and how they wish. What’s more, municipalities must balance the needs of the local community against the larger interest. Every acre added to the a national battlefield or historic site is one taken off the local tax rolls. Mayors and city councils are not evil or wrong for thinking about such things. The issue is further complicated by changing demographics. The Greater Washington Area has undergone a shift in recent decades with people coming from around the country–and around the world–who have no emotional attachment to the American Civil War. We ourselves are part of that trend. We take the Boltbus regularly to visit good friends of ours who moved to Maryland recently and live not an hour away from Sharpsburg. There are no easy answers.
Things would be worse across the country without groups such as the Civil War Trust, of which I am a member. At the more local level, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation has done much work in the past two decades to ensure that growth is managed sensibly. David T. Whitaker of Smart Growth Maryland has the story.