A worthy substitute for Battle of Selma: Park Day 2006

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2006

To the Editor:

The Battle of Selma has been one of Selma’s most entertaining events, and so, understandably, many people are disappointed to hear that this year’s event has been cancelled.

Recent articles in this paper have focused on the economic impact of this and other events.

What has been missing in this coverage and perhaps in our community itself

is an appreciation

of the many local tourist attractions that draw and care for visitors year-round.

Although perhaps not as flashy as an event ” show pony,” these seven-day-a-week attractions are the “work horses” that support

hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other local businesses all year.

Old Cahawba is just one example.

Locally, we think of Cahawba as Alabama’s historic state capital (1820-1825), but Generals Forrest and Wilson met at Cahawba after the Selma

battle.

Cahawba

was also the site of a nationally famous Civil War prison.

At the end of the war, most of the federal soldiers released from this prison died in one of the largest ship disasters in U.S. history – the explosion of the Sultana.

Consequently, a surprising number of Cahawba’s visitors are actual descendants of those captured Union soldiers;

others descend from Confederate guards;

and one recent visitor revealed that his ancestor was a slave that sheltered an escaping soldier in

a nearby barn.

Old

Cahawba is a special place where all these diverse families come together year- round to consider a defining moment in the history of our nation.

Their stories help other visitors better understand the emotional

significance of that moment. Their tourist dollars support our local economy.

Maintaining Cahawba for visitors is a rewarding, but challenging

job.

Shrinking state budgets, staff reductions,

and recent disasters like the visitor center fire have made the task of improving Cahawba difficult.

Old Cahawba, like other Civil War sites, needs citizen volunteers.

On Saturday, April 1, 2006, Old Cahawba will be participating in Park Day, a nationwide event sponsored by the History Channel and the Civil War Preservation Trust, in conjunction with the Take Pride in America program.

It is a day for volunteers to help reverse the wear and tear on our nation’s Civil War sites.

Local volunteers are invited to gather at

9 a.m. on April 1

at the

Old Cahawba Visitor Center, 9518 Old Cahaba Road, Orrville.

Volunteers at Cahawba will be cleaning trash from newly-acquired land and will help prepare an

important historic structure for restoration.

Commemorative T-shirts will be given away, and some of Cahawba’s best stories will be told.

To reserve a spot on the Park Day crew and for more information on how to prepare, please contact Tommy Coleman as soon as possible at 875-8058.

Linda Derry,

Site Director, Old Cahawba

Alabama Historical Commission