Published 9:01 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

Camp Nelson recommended for National Monument status

The recommendation for Camp Nelson to be designated as a National Monument was released by the Department of the Interior last week with Judge-Executive David West calling the recommendation extraordinary, as it would be the first national monument in Kentucky, and one of three new national monuments in the country.

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“For a county government to do something like this is pretty extraordinary,” West said. “Jessamine County put a line in the sand and said, ‘We are going to buy some land and we are going to protect this.’ All of it is a county effort. The judge before me was passionate about it and it shows in the quality of what we have here.”

The camp served as a Union Army supply depot, training center and hospital during the Civil War. It was the third-largest recruitment training center for black regiments in the country and largest recruitment training center in Kentucky.

After learning of the Secretary of Interior’s plan to review national monuments designations, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr continued efforts to give national recognition to Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park. Barr worked with local stakeholders to educate the Secretary of Interior’s staff on the historical significance of the park.

“We focus on black men coming to fight,” West said. “But I was so excited to learn that this was a major equine rehabilitation center. They produced some innovations here that were adopted by the United States Army and kept through World War I. They developed levels of care here that are still used in equine.”

Congressman Barr said in a prepared statement the nomination of Camp Nelson to become a National Monument marks a great day for Kentucky.

“We are one step closer to having our first national monument,” Barr said. “I can think of no site more deserving of this distinction than the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park where thousands of African American slaves found freedom. I strongly encourage President Trump to follow through on the secretary’s recommendations.”

West said Jessamine County has stepped up what could be done to promote Camp Nelson and see it adopted into the national system. This kind of recognition, he said, would help do many things including promote tourism in Jessamine County.

“They usually focus on the battlefields,” West said. “This is so culturally important. Congressman Barr got the Congressional black caucus and lined up African American leaders from our community and had a meeting down here. He wanted to make sure that everybody supported this and it was overwhelmingly accepted. This isn’t a party thing. This isn’t a race thing. This is a right thing.”