Archived Story

Military park a valuable asset

Published 7:58pm Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Right in our backyard sits a true American gem – and, as with many assets we may see or pass every day, it’s something that many people in our area don’t think about.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is the site of the famous Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the battle which essentially ended major conflicts with the Creek Nation in 1814.

Only five months after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the United States and the Creek Nation signed a treaty ceding 23 million acres of Creek land to the U.S.

This opened the land to new settlers, most of which were farmers and became the basis for the area’s primary income for more than a century. Only a few years later, Alabama became a part of the union in 1819.

On the other side of that coin, most of the Creek Nation was eventually forced from its homeland in the Southeast and made to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1830s.

The general who led the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Andrew Jackson, was elected president in 1828, “partly as a result of his fame from the (battle) of Horseshoe Bend,” according to the park’s website.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend is an important battle discussed Alabama history books and, last time I checked, is required as part of the curriculum for fourth and 10th grade classes. I’d be shocked if this battle wasn’t featured in most American history books as well.

Fast forward to a time not so long ago.

I grew up in the 1990s and attended Alexander City Schools, and during that time, school or group trips to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park were not uncommon.

I remember many trips to the park, hearing the names of the Native American leaders Menawa and Tecumseh and the war that took place all around us. I remember looking across the battlefield, contemplating the awful battle that took place there while nibbling on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from my sack lunch.

Yet when I speak with coworkers now who have children in the local school systems, some of them say their children have never visited the park that sits 15-20 minutes from Alexander City.

With two parents who work in education, I fully understand the budget cuts to our systems that have made field trips few and far between. I also know that all local teachers strive to find meaningful field trips, particularly with history, to attempt to make it come alive.

But I encourage everyone to look right here first, before traveling to other areas or other states for a meaningful experience.

When speaking to coworkers at our sister paper in Wetumpka, they say the outpouring of support of the community for Fort Toulouse – Fort Jackson is incredible. Students from Montgomery, Wetumpka and the surrounding areas take many trips to the fort in their K-12 careers.

Next spring, Horseshoe Bend National Military Park will commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. I’m sure you will be hearing in the coming weeks about how Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc. will be leading the effort in commemorating the battle with a historical magazine that details our area’s Native American roots, a description of the battle itself, the aftermath, as well as how C.J. Coley worked to create the park and the park’s amenities today.

Furthermore, we will be donating 2,000 magazines to the Friends of Horseshoe Bend so the publications can be sold as part of their fundraising efforts at future events.

We hope to ignite some excitement around the bicentennial itself and provide our area with the knowledge of what is arguably the most important event to ever occur in Tallapoosa County.

But TPI’s 20-plus employees cannot be the only ones who take charge of reminding the public about this asset in our area. It’s up to parents, teachers, school board members and the rest of the community to take an interest in the park and support its upcoming events.

It would be great for our local economy for people to travel from near and far to visit our park, eat in our restaurants, buy our gas and sleep in our hotels.

I see no reason why this national park couldn’t have the same success as you see at the parks in Gettysburg, Vicksburg or the Alamo.

But support from the outside starts from the inside – that is, it starts with us.

Spears is general manager of The Outlook.