Is Battle Acre closer to a new facelift before its 200th?
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:15

Del. Olszewski hoping to secure funding for site

by Ben Boehl

    The clock is ticking and Dundalk history buffs are hoping for improvements to Battle Acre in Charlesmont before that magical date of Sept. 12, 2014.
    That will be the 200th anniversary of the date that regiments of the Maryland militia squared off with the British Army along North Point Road in the War of 1812.
    The Maryland General Assembly announced in mid-January a grant proposal for $750,000 called “Capital Budget Funding for War of 1812 Historic Sites” to improve Battle Acre and other local sites.

  The funding for Battle Acre is not part of a legislative package, but would be part of the state’s budget, which must be approved before the conclusion of the 2013 session.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. explained the budget will be approved in some capacity, but the key is if the funding for Battle Acre and the adjacent state park remains intact once that budget is approved.
    “I expect for these funds to remain in the budget,”  Olszewski said.
    “I made it clear to the governor that this was a priority of mine, and of the community, and I applaud him for recognizing the importance of investing in this project.”
    Battle Acre is on North Point Road, which has been designated a primary corridor of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and Scenic Byway.
    Upgrades to the Battle Acre project would include paving and grading improvements for a pedestrian plaza and improving public access to the park that includes access for people with disabilities.
    New curbs, gutters and site grading will be placed to help with the site’s water drainage problems.
    If there are no setbacks, work would begin in July and the upgrades could be completed by April 2014.
    Is that too late?
    Fran Taylor, member of the Baltimore County’s War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee, said the funds will be welcomed when they arrive and predicts Battle Acre will get its upgrades before the official bicentennial celebration that takes place in September 2014.
    “Our goal is to still have it ready by the bicentennial (Sept. 12, 2014), but it’s still important even if it’s after 2014,” Taylor said, explaining that his group plans to preserve and celebrate the War of 1812 beyond the  bicentennial celebration, but is confident the county will receive money and upgrade the site by September 2014.
    Harry Young, member of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society and chairman of the Defender’s Day celebration, said he is more skeptical until he sees the improvements at the site. He was hoping for upgrades to the site before the area started its War of 1812 Bicentennial celebration last summer.   
    Young’s team of volunteers had a plan to take down the fence and move the pillars back 12 feet to make it more presentable for tourists, but their plans were met by resistance from Baltimore County, which owns Battle Acre.
    Young decided to let the county take care of the upgrades and hopes with the possible funding from the state that Battle Acre will finally get its facelift.
    “I have no animosity towards the county. They wanted to do it their way, and I hope it happens,” Young said last week.
    In mid-February, Battle Acre appeared to be vandalized as part of the front gate was tipped over.    
    Taylor believes Battle Acre was vandalized, as  he found the cannon on top of one of the fallen pillars.
    “I tend to think it was vandalism, but I didn’t see any physical evidence,” Taylor said.
    “However; I know that the [pillars] had been leaning.”
    On the other hand, Young does not feel that vandals were responsible for the destruction of the front gate.
    He believes the gate was just a victim of deterioration and its vulnerability made the gate fall after a heavy rain or wind.
    “I don’t think there was any vandalism. The gates were holding the columns up and the columns were being washed away,” Young said, adding that vandals would have probably stolen or destroyed the cannon.   
    “I’m not saying that it wasn’t vandalism, because I wasn’t there, but I’d be surprised if it was.”
    Regardless of how the gate was destroyed, Baltimore County came out and repaired that gate.
    Local historians are hoping the next time the county comes out to Battle Acre, it will be performing upgrades to the site.