by Luke Jones
Posted 2/25/2013 12:00 am
Freedom Park, a segment of Helena-West Helena’s Civil War tourism development project, was scheduled to be dedicated Feb. 23.
According to a release, the $385,000 park, at 750 S. Biscoe St. in Helena, highlights the journey of escaped slaves as they passed through Helena during its occupation by Union troops in 1862 and onward. The park is the first Arkansas location designated by the National Park Service as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.
It will feature five exhibits and will be operated by the Delta Cultural Center. It was paid for through several grants coordinated by the Delta Bridge Project of Phillips County.
The park is part of the Civil War Helena Interpretive Plan, which was introduced in 2009 to increase tourism and focus on local heritage. A $400,000 replica of Fort Curtis was erected in May 2012 as part of the plan.
Future projects through 2013 and 2014 include the restoration of Biscoe Street’s Estevan Hall and improvements to the “Battery C” fortification.
In addition, the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department recently awarded the city a Scenic Byways grant to link the Civil War sites and provide other infrastructure improvements.
According to the Delta Cultural Center, the projects are expected to attract about 60,000 visitors annually and generate $9 million in area revenue.