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Published: Tuesday, 5/23/2006

Purchase puts battle site closer to park status

BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

MONROE - The site of a bloody War of 1812 conflict is a step closer to becoming a national battlefield park.

The Monroe County Historical Society paid $325,000 to Homrich Inc. for a narrow, one-acre strip of riverfront land that borders the 35.5-acre site of a former paper mill.

Roger Homrich, president of the Carleton-based demolition company, said yesterday that the society's offer was contingent upon the city's acceptance of his company's donation of the larger parcel, which was transferred last Wednesday.

Plans are to demolish the remains of the paper plant, which was destroyed by fire two years ago, and turn the properties into an attraction similar to, although much smaller than, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

On April 7, U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn) introduced legislation that supporters hope will create the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.

The proposed legislation is in two parts. The first would authorize a study of the site to determine if a national park is feasible; the second would facilitate transfer of the land from the owners to the Interior Department to the National Park Service.

"The River Raisin [battlefield site] has an important place in our state's and our nation's history," Mr. Dingell said then. "We have a duty to protect it for our children so they can learn about the battles and appreciate those who died to protect the land."

In the winter of 1813, a battle between combined British and Native American troops and an outnumbered Kentucky militia resulted in the militia commander's surrendering his unit with the promise the soldiers would not be harmed. Several days later, more than 200 of the Kentuckians were killed by the Native Americans. Subsequently, "Remember the Raisin" became a rallying cry for American troops, who routed the British from lower Michigan a few months later.

The battle site eventually became home to several paper mills, and the property's significance was largely forgotten. With the demise of the mills, interest in the property as a historic site grew.

The Monroe County Historical Museum oversees a visitor center with several exhibits that tell the story of the battle at the site, which is bordered by North Dixie Highway and East Elm Avenue. Several thousand people visit the center each year, according to museum director Ralph Naveaux.

"[If it becomes a national park], we would think it would become more of a magnet for visitors," Mr. Naveaux said.



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