Ranger-led hikes at Antietam National Battlefield are popular with visitors. Photo: NPS

Eastern National has received a $1 million gift from an anonymous benefactor. The donation, designated to expand and enhance Antietam National Battlefield’s educational trail program, will help increase access and provide new opportunities for visitors to connect with interpretive resources. 

The transformational gift will support construction of a new hiking trail system, described in the 2018 Visitor Access and Circulation Plan – Environmental Assessment, as well as the development of interpretive resources such as trail guides, trailhead exhibits, ranger-led battlefield hikes and tours, and enhanced visitor experience and resource protection capabilities. 

“We are delighted to have received such a generous gift,” said Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail. “As stewards of the land and its history, we’re excited for a new opportunity to connect visitors to Antietam in meaningful ways.” 

Antietam National Battlefield’s acreage has more than doubled since the completion of the last General Management Plan in 1992. The construction of new trail segments and realignment of existing trails will offer future visitors easier access and interpretive context when they visit these newer sections of the park. It is estimated that the project will take seven years to complete. 

The gift stemmed from an inquiry from an anonymous patron who wanted to support trails at Antietam National Battlefield. Staff from Eastern National and the National Park Service worked closely to formalize the project with a philanthropic support agreement, then submitted a proposal to the prospective donor. With substantial funding in place, park officials will be able to leverage the donation to apply for matching funds from federal sources. 

 “Eastern National and Antietam National Battlefield have a rich history of working together to enhance visitor experiences,” said Kevin C. Kissling, Eastern National president and CEO. “We’re honored to have helped facilitate this substantial investment in the park and its resources.”

Antietam National Battlefield is the site of the bloodiest day of the American Civil War, seeing 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded, or missing after 12 brutal hours of savage combat. The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, ended the Confederate Army’s first invasion into the North and led Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Coincidentally, the donation arrived at Eastern National’s headquarters on September 17, 2019, the 157th anniversary of the battle.