Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TOP STORY >> Reed’s Bridge staying focused on its plans

Steve Shore of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society stands inside the park’s new replica 19th Century cabin.

Encampment participants prepare a camp fire dinner at the end of Saturday’s events at Reed’s Bridge in Jacksonville.

Leader staff writer

About 200 people came out Saturday to learn about Jacksonville history and see the newest additions at the Reed’s Bridge battlefield.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, led by Steve Shore and Mike Kish, both of Jacksonville, hosted a Civil War encampment.

“Next year, the emphasis will be on the battle,” Kish said.

The group hopes to organize another battle re-enactment similar to the one held there last year.

The men spent much of Saturday showing off their latest projects: a replica of a 19th Century cabin and accompanying barn.

Both projects aim to re-create the Civil War period for visitors and give them a feel for what life would have been like for people near Reed’s Bridge, according to Shore and Kish.

All afternoon, impressed visitors streamed in to see the rustic amenities. On their way out they congratulated Shore and Kish, who completed much of the work alone.

Shore said that he’s even had a few requests to rent the cabin for overnight stays. The cabin has a stone fireplace, a small table and a loft bed with a window (Shore calls the window a 19th Century air conditioner) that was working well Saturday.

The cabin may prove to be as attractive to vandals as it does to curious locals, but that doesn’t seem to worry Kish.

“It’s sort of like a new car, sooner or later it’s going to get dinged up,” he said.

The group is busy planning future projects.

“We’re planning on having a Halloween party if we get the barn done,” which would include a haunted trail, Shore said.

Flashlights would be forbidden and only candles could be used, he said.

Kish and Shore remain focused on finishing construction of the barn, which may take a couple of months.

They are also planning to plant 19th Century varieties of tobacco, cotton and fruits, creating a kind of historically-minded community garden.

They also see an opportunity to attract kayakers from the Bayou Meto canoe trail that borders the park.

Kish and Shore envision the park as a place that could bring the community together in a way that few other institutions can.