U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke formally recommended Tuesday that Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park should be one of three new national monuments in the country.
If President Donald Trump acts on that recommendation, Camp Nelson would be the first national monument in Kentucky. The designation could bring more attention and tourists to the site off U.S. 27 south of Nicholasville.
Camp Nelson was a Union Army supply depot, training center and hospital during the Civil War. It was the third-largest recruitment and training center for black regiments in the country. (The Civil War park is near but is not a part of Camp Nelson National Cemetery, which is administered by the National Cemetery Association of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.)
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr said in a statement that he “can think of no site more deserving of the 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 Zinke’s recommendation.
“Camp Nelson is one of the places where our nation was made stronger and history was made,” Zinke said in a statement. “As a key depot, training center and hospital, Camp Nelson recruited and trained thousands of African-American war heroes who helped restore the Union.”
Zinke recommended to Trump that the Department of Interior “begin a public process to weigh designating this location as a national monument.”
The Civil War park, which attracts about 15,000 visitors a year, is owned by Jessamine County. The heritage park was designated as a national historic landmark in 2013. It is also part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Zinke recommended that President Trump create two other national monuments. One was the Jackson, Miss., home where civil rights activist Medgar Evers was shot and killed in 1963. The other was the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area in Montana, which is considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation.