National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Executive Summary

Civil War cannon and field of flags at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Civil War cannon and field of flags at Kennesaw Mountain NBP

The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of national parks for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. NPS Management Policies (2006) state that "The Service will also strive to ensure that park resources and values are passed on to future generations in a condition that is as good as, or better than, the conditions that exist today."

As part of the stewardship of national parks for the American people, the NPS has begun to develop State of the Park reports to assess the overall status and trends of each park's resources. The NPS will use this information to improve park priority setting and to synthesize and communicate complex park condition information to the public in a clear and simple way.

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is to:

  1. Provide to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values;
  2. Summarize and communicate complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format;
  3. Highlight park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the State of the Park;
  4. Identify key issues and challenges facing the park to help inform park management planning.

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Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park encompasses approximately 2,923 acres of mostly hardwood forest that preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign. Between June 19 and July 2, 1864, a series of battles occurred here between Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate force of 65,000 troops and Gen. William T. Sherman's Union army of 100,000 men. Eventually, Sherman's army outflanked the Confederate force and forced them to abandon their lines. The loss of Kennesaw Mountain removed one of the last major geographic obstacles protecting Atlanta, which eventually fell to the Union army in September of 1864. The fall of Atlanta bolstered the Union army's resolve to continue the conflict and eventually led to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1864.

The purpose of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is to preserve, protect, and interpret, for the benefit and inspiration of the people, the historical and natural features of this major battle site in the American Civil War's 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Significance statements express why the park unit's resources and values are important enough to warrant national park unit designation. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is significant because:

  • It is the only nationally designated battle site that commemorates the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Union victory in this campaign ensured the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and thereby the eventual preservation of the Union.
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park preserves 8.9 miles of original Civil War field fortifications, which were decisive elements in later stages of the American Civil War.
  • The Park is one of the best places to see a diverse community of migratory birds east of the Mississippi River. The park was the first designated Globally Important Bird Area in the state of Georgia and is a focus area for bird conservation in the Southern Piedmont of the United States.
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is the site of a major Civil War battle, which also provides one of the largest contiguous federally managed public green spaces in a major metropolitan area serving millions of recreationists each year.

The summary table, below, and the supporting information that follows, provide an overall assessment of the condition of priority resources and values at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park based on scientific and scholarly studies and expert opinion. The internet version of this report provides additional detail and sources of information about the resources summarized in this report, including references, accounts on the origin and quality of the data, and the methods and analytical approaches used in the assessments. Reference conditions that represent "healthy" ecosystem parameters, and regulatory standards (such as those related to air or water quality) provide the rationale to describe current resource status. In coming years, rapidly evolving information regarding climate change and associated effects will inform our goals for managing park resources, and may alter how we measure the trend in condition of park resources. Thus, reference conditions, regulatory standards, and/or our judgment about resource status or trend may evolve as the rate of climate change accelerates and we respond to novel conditions. In this context, the status and trends documented here provide a useful point-in-time baseline to inform our understanding of emerging change, as well as a synthesis to share as we build broader climate change response strategies with partners.

The park has made vast improvements to the park through the planning and protection of cultural resources, improving visitor services and infrastructure, and monitoring the natural resources of the park. Below are some of the highlights:

  • The park has 11 miles of intact Civil War earthworks including trench lines and cannon fortifications. With park visitation at 1.9 million visitors in FY12, it is imperative that the earthworks be protected for generations to come. The park completed the Earthworks Management Plan in conjunction with the Cultural Landscape Plan in FY12, a yearlong project.
  • With the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2011–2015, it was apparent to the park that the current park orientation film did not capture the whole story of what happened at Kennesaw Mountain in 1864. The making of a new park movie occurred over a period of two years and in September of 2013, the park released the new movie depicting the story of Civil War to Civil Rights. It tells the story of how the Civil War impacted the community of Cobb County and the role of freed slaves and their support to the Union Army.
  • A goal of the park is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. In 2010, the park completed a yearlong project and installed a 60 KW solar array atop the Visitor Center. In 2012, the park obtained a hybrid shuttle bus (electric/gas) to transport visitors to the mountain top on weekends.
  • The purpose of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is to preserve, protect, and interpret, for the benefit and inspiration of the people, the historical and natural features of this major battle site in the American Civil War's 1864 Atlanta Campaign. The nearly 3,000 wooded acres and 20 miles of trails create an obvious need to manage and monitor the park's natural resources. The NPS Southeast Coast Inventory and Monitoring Network is near completion of the Natural Resource Condition Assessment which will evaluate and summarize existing natural resource data for the park.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park preserves a vast landscape upon which occurred a strategically consequential event in perhaps the most tragic and transformational period in American history. The park has become one of the most important recreational green spaces in a major U.S. metropolitan area, receiving more than 1.9 million visitors in 2012. It is the most visited Civil War Park in the NPS system. Managers have a continuing challenge to balance the multiple goals of preserving these outstanding cultural and natural resources while providing for increasing demands for outdoor recreation opportunities from a growing metropolitan area population. Of the utmost importance for all park users is safety.

One key issue is the mixed visitor use of the road that winds up Kennesaw Mountain. This narrow two lane road has walkers, bicyclists and cars accessing the mountaintop on weekdays. Given the steep grade and the many blind curves, it is a safety hazard with the occurrence of "near misses" between all three user groups. The park road is closed to cars and bicycles on the weekends and operates a shuttle bus with one lane designated for pedestrians. This has eased the user conflict and minimized the safety hazard of mixed recreational use of the road. Chapter 4 gives greater detail of the challenges facing the park staff.

Summary Table

The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Priority Resource or Value Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Natural Resources
Air Quality Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Estimated ozone, average visibility, and nitrogen and sulfur wet deposition levels in the park for 2005–2009 warrant significant concern based on NPS Air Resource Division benchmarks. Learn more »
Geology and Soils Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; high confidence in the assessment. Soils in the park are mostly clay and sandy loam, with moderate to high erodibility. There is evidence of common, severe stream bank erosion, and common, high, and extremely rapid sedimentation in streams. Sediment cover is 60–80% in many stream locations. Learn more »
Water Quantity and Quality Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; high confidence in the assessment. The magnitude and timing of flows in the park are typical of streams draining urbanized areas (e.g., flashy flows after rain events and low base flows). Stream temperate, pH, and dissolved oxygen measurements were better than the state standards for Georgia, but nitrate, phosphorus, aluminum, and fecal coliform bacteria levels all warrant significant concern. Stream health is Fair based on the Macroinvertebrate Index of Biological Integrity. Learn more »
Flora and Fauna Resource is in good condition; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; medium confidence in the assessment. The park has a high species richness and diversity of amphibians and birds, with 23 species of amphibians and 208 species of birds documented to occur in the park. Twelve invasive species identified by the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council as Category I (i.e., species that invade intact systems, displace native vegetation, and alter ecological processes) occur in the park, including Chinese privet, kudzu, and honeysuckle. Learn more »
Dark Night Sky Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is deteriorating; medium confidence in the assessment. The modeled Anthropogenic Light Ratio (ALR), a measure of light pollution calculated as the ratio of Average Anthropogenic Sky Glow to Average Natural Sky Luminance, was 19.67 which is considered of significant concern. The park is adjacent to the Atlanta metropolitan area with a population of 5.5 Million people and a 28% growth rate in the past decade. Learn more »
Adjacent Land Cover and Use Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is deteriorating; high confidence in the assessment. Between 1992 and 2006, the percent of lands surrounding the park that are classified as forest or wetlands decreased from 60% to 30%, whereas the percent of land classified as Low/High Intensity Residential or Commercial/Industrial/ Transportation increased from 26.6% to 38.5%. From 1992–2010, human population increased 70% in the watershed upstream of KEMO and 52% in the area surrounding the park. Learn more »
Cultural Resources
Archeological Resources Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Less than 1% of the park acres deemed appropriate for survey have been adequately surveyed for archeological resources. Documentation for National Register purposes is incomplete and out of date. Of the 23 known sites, 74% are in Good condition, 13% are in Fair condition, and 13% are of unknown condition Learn more »
Cultural Anthropology Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. No Ethnographic Overview and Assessment exists for the park, but the relationship of the park's ethnographic resources and historic contexts has been partially documented in various park reports that were primarily developed for other purposes. Learn more »
Cultural Landscapes Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Cultural landscapes are listed as Fundamental Resources of the park with a management category of "Must be Preserved and Maintained." The park is listed in the National Register, and two Cultural Landscape Inventories (CLIs) were completed for the property in 2009—one for the park overall, and one for the Cheatham Hill component. When new lands are added to the park, the CLIs will need to be updated. A Cultural Landscape Report with treatment recommendations is in draft form and under review. Learn more »
Historic Structures Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. 29 of the 33 (88%) structures listed on the park's List of Classified Structures are in Good Condition, 3 are in Fair condition, and one (the Big Kennesaw Antebellum Road) is in Poor condition. All known historic structures have been adequately documented for National Register purposes. Learn more »
History Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. 100% of the park's current historic properties have been adequately documented. A Historic Resource Study was completed 18 years ago in 1995, and the administrative history for the park was completed in 1994. Learn more »
Museum Collections Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Only 14% of the park's collections are accessioned and catalogued, with the bulk of the backlog being archives. An exhibit plan for the park visitor center was completed in 2002. The overall condition of the collection is currently Good, but there are concerns about being able to maintain the current level of stewardship. Learn more »
Visitor Experience
Number of Visitors Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Kennesaw Mountain NBP has the highest visitation of any Civil War battlefield park in the nation. The total of 1,935,909 visitors to the park in 2012 was 41% higher than the 10-year average of 1,370,310 visitors for 2002–2011. Learn more »
Visitor Satisfaction Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Based on the standard visitor satisfaction survey conducted each year, the percentage of visitors satisfied in FY12 was 99.0%, compared to the average of 98% for the previous five years. Learn more »
Interpretive and Education Programs – Talks, Tours, and Special Events Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park is located in a county of 750,000 people. There is extensive opportunity to educate and interpret the historical importance of the Civil War and the Atlanta Campaign. In FY12, the park presented 35 education programs, 74 interpretive programs, and four special events, reaching a total of 15,700 visitors. Preparations are being made for the 150th anniversary of the battles related to the Atlanta Campaign in 2014. Learn more »
Interpretive Media – Brochures, Exhibits, Signs, and Website Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The recently-completed sign plan will be implemented in FY13. Highway guides, road guides, and trail guides as well as boundary signs will be added throughout the park and surrounding area. Museum exhibits encompass a wide range of American Civil War Atlanta campaign topics and remain a highlight for visitors. The new park brochure was released in August 2012, and a new high-definition park orientation film is in the final stages of development and will be released in FY13. The park is in need of a wayside plan. The current condition of the limited waysides is poor. Learn more »
Recreational Opportunities Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park provides one of the largest contiguous federally managed public green spaces in a major metropolitan area serving millions of recreationists each year, and has more than 18 miles of designated trails used for hiking, running, dog walking, and horseback riding. The park was designated by the Audubon Society as Georgia's first Important Bird Area, and attracts bird watchers throughout the year, particularly during the spring and fall migrations. Learn more »
Accessibility Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park visitor center, parking areas, and shuttle bus are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The park brochure is available in Braille, and the new park orientation film will have closed captioning. The buildings that house the administrative staff and visitor protection staff are not handicap accessible. The waysides are not ADA compliant. Learn more »
Safety Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is deteriorating; high confidence in the assessment. The number of recordable incidents is increasing because of the large increase in visitation, with more than 2,000 law enforcement incidents last year. There has been an increase in the number of traffic accidents within the park. Operational Leadership Training has been completed by all staff, and CPR and first aid training are offered to all staff on a space available basis. Learn more »
Partnerships Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. In 2012, 1,600 volunteers contributed more than 24,000 hours to help with park stewardship. The park works with a variety of partners and continues to seek opportunities to develop new partnerships. The Trail Club has been assisting the park for more than 10 years with development and maintenance of trails. Learn more »
Park Infrastructure
Overall Facility Condition Index Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The 136 assets at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park have an overall FCI of 0.001, which is Good based on industry and NPS standards. FCI is the cost of repairing an asset, such as a building, road, trail, or water system, divided by the cost of replacing it. Learn more »
Energy Consumption Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The park recently installed a 60KW solar array atop the Visitor Center and installed energy-efficient lighting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. As a result, energy usage (BTUs per gross square footage of buildings) at the park in 2012 was 64% lower than the average for the previous 3 years. Learn more »
Water Consumption Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is deteriorating; high confidence in the assessment. Water consumption at the park in 2012 was 19.6% higher than the 4-year average for 2008–2011 as a result of water needed to establish new landscaping around the visitor center and some broken pipes that have since been repaired. Learn more »

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Last Updated: September 19, 2014 Contact Webmaster