Judge-Executive Curtis Dame and Sacramento mayor Betty Howard are in the preliminary stages of starting a committee to focus on the battlefield land located at 675 Main St.
The land has been famously used for the county’s Battle of Sacramento reenactment since 1995.
“Our goal is to continue to preserve the property at a standard that is approved and guided by the U.S. Department of the Interior, but also allow citizen input, because both the City of Sacramento and McLean County own property at that site,” Dame said.
“With the original battle committee, we decided that 25 years was a good run, but we have not dissolved that committee yet,” Howard said. “We’ve got to meet again, and I know the committee is wanting to put a 25-year plaque and thank all the reenactors and everybody that made it a good 25 years. And we are going to look at doing a battlepark committee and using that land and utilizing it for renting out or things that people might want to do in the community.”
Dame said that conversations about preserving and expanding opportunities of the battlefield site began after the cancelation of the Battle of Sacramento reenactment in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“There seems to be a lot of support in the Sacramento area to continue this type of event and to use the property,” Dame said. “I think it has been an ongoing discussion, especially because a lot of the members of the committee have gotten older and want to turn over the group to the next generation.”
“I think people are going to want to use it and do things there,” Howard said. “... It’s good land, and we need to utilize the land. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Dame said the current plan is to mirror a similar management system that is used for Myer Creek Park in Calhoun, where they will be creating a committee of five to seven individuals, which will be made up of Dame, Howard, two residents from Sacramento and two from the county at large.
While Dame and Howard plan to be a part of the committee, they want to guide the members in the right direction to take on the project as their own.
“These will be regular citizens that are passionate about the battlefield property,” Dame said. “These will be individuals that will develop the park rules, the usage forms and help us to eventually get to the point of having enough revenue to hire someone that will help to see the rental of the property, just like we do at Myer Creek (Park).”
Dame said that sections of the property were initially bought with Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which helped preserve or purchase property for parks, but would now be covered by the federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, TAP provides funding for surface transportation projects such as on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving nondriver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities, environmental mitigation and safe routes to school projects.
“The funding is still available but it goes towards different types of projects now — not just tourism related,” Dame said. “Our goal is to see if the restrictions when the property was originally purchased still holds true to today.”
Dame said that the Department of Rural and Municipal Aid are helping them make sure that they are able to go through with the project correctly.
“We got the contacts there that are helping us go back and make sure we dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s in regards to this property,” Dame said. “Not only do we want to preserve the battlefield property, we want to do so in a way that does not jeopardize future grants and funding from this funding pool.”
Dame admits that he had some apprehensions considering the idea of preserving the land, but knew it was in the county’s best interest.
“My one hesitation throughout this whole process is that I do not want to get the county labeled as a bad actor if we exit these agreements for maintenance of the property,” Dame said. “There are a lot of restrictions with the piece of property that was purchased with these TEA-21 funds. And that’s not a bad thing, because it was meant to be a historical battlefield. So even if you go to move any soil or dirt, it’s considered a heritage battlefield site. There’s a reason those restrictions and guidelines are there.”
Dame and Howard look forward to possibilities that the city and county will have with the land, with hopes to highlight other events that have occurred in the county’s past like the battle reenactment.
“I’m personally excited,” Dame said. “Being a fan of history and McLean County history, to work to not only preserve the legacy of the Battle of Sacramento, but to do so in a way that provides a conduit to have more events out there — living history days, I guess you can say — that shows a broad spectrum of McLean County history.”
“Some of our dedicated reenactors have shown an interest to maybe come on a weekend and do another display with just their unit and invite the public,” Howard said. “It (would) be great.”
Dame said that potential volunteers have shown interest in hosting other historical events, such as the restoration of the Battle of Sacramento driving tour.
“Historically, the battle was in May. But we really didn’t use the property outside of that,” Dame said. “The overarching goal is to provide a site for the southern part of the county to host events of this nature.
“I think we’ve just seen a sliver of the potential of what this property has. Our goal is to embrace history. We know that the Battle of Sacramento obviously was an historical event for the county, and the fiscal court fully supports making sure that this event continues in some shape or form, but more than once a year.”
Dame also sees this opportunity as a way to help the county with tourism — stating that he has spoken to volunteers from the Battle of Sacramento event that mentioned the county was at the bottom in rankings for tourism dollars before moving up 10 to 11 spots in the first five to 10 years due to having the battle reenactment.
“Our goal is to get back to that framework of providing regional, historical and outdoor events,” Dame said. “We have the property, so you can check that box off.”
Howard said that she already has some people looking into using the land, which could help them financially.
“I’ve already had some inquiries about somebody renting it and putting on some event,” Howard said. “And if we do that and charge for renting it out for the day or the weekend, put that money back in, because we have to pay electric bills and stuff like that, and maybe improve here and there. That’s our thought.”
Dame hopes that setting up this committee will help get a younger crowd excited and more involved in telling people about the county’s heritage and history.
“It’s hard to recruit volunteers and young people, but if we give them something to work with — I think it’s possible to get people engaged in it again,” Dame said. “... We’ve been doing that great for the last 25 years, I guess we have to carry on (or) pass the torch to the next generation and make sure we provide these opportunities here. McLean County has a lot of history.”
And Howard already predicts that the possibilities could be endless.
“I think with food vendors, fall festivals and spring festivals, and stuff like that, I think we can bring some stuff to Sacramento that the whole community and everybody will enjoy,” Howard said. “There’s some great potential, and it’s beautiful out there.”