Cobb County is moving to add a nearly 24-acre parcel on Veterans Memorial Highway — which may one day serve as a large passive park — to the county’s register of historic places.

The “Union Field Fortifications at Henderson Road and Howell’s Mill” (also known as “the Henderson Road tract”) are said to contain an array of Civil War fortifications, according to a report from the county’s Historic Preservation Commission. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places six years ago in the hopes of spurring investment in a planned park.

Those plans have yet to come to fruition. The Board of Commissioners approved a master plan for the park in January 2020, featuring nature trails, an educational center, and play area, but the estimated $2.5 million in funding has not materialized.

The Henderson Road tract is currently a largely undeveloped area of dense woods, save for a dilapidated ranch house and out-buildings. But in the summer of 1864, Union soldiers dug in at the site while advancing on the Chattahoochee River Line fortifications erected by the Confederacy.

As the commission’s report on the site explains, artillery batteries were built on the hillside overlooking Nickajack Creek, roughly 500 yards from the Confederate lines on the river. From this position, federal troops fired on Confederate soldiers throughout the following days while Gen. William T. Sherman scouted a suitable place to cross the Chattahoochee.

Today, a number of earthworks and trenches survive on the site, preserved from its lack of direct development over the years. In addition, “historic maps indicate that the subject property was the site of Howell’s Mill,” constructed around 1918, the commission reports. Due to their newer vintage, the mill ruins were not considered relevant to the National Register nomination process.

Because, however, the mill contributes to the historic character of that part of the county, it has been included in the nomination process for the county-level historic register. The master plan of the proposed park includes a trail traveling along the property’s northern boundary with a viewing area of the mill site.

Adding the property to the county’s historic registry will give additional protections not provided by its national historic status, said Roberta Cook of the River Line Historic Area, Inc. When the site eventually does become a park, she said it will be a testament to the foresight of generations past.

“I think what people should be excited about is to see the fruit of the park bonds,” Cook said. She called the collection of lots an “assemblage of property,” acquired at various points via green space funding from the state government in 2004, and park bonds approved by taxpayers in 2006.

“This is the first parcel that was purchased with that 2006 park bond money,” she added.

South Cobb Commissioner Monique Sheffield said the proximity of the Henderson Road property to a number of other parks in the area will add to the corridor of historic preservation near the Chattahoochee River. Discovery Park at the River Line, which opened earlier this year, and Shoupade Park on Oakdale Road in Smyrna both contain the remains of historic Confederate fortifications.

The public hearing on the historic designation will be held during the Cobb Board of Commissioners meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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