By Mark Wineka
Federal highway officials say four historic resources possibly affected by Interstate 85's expansion across the Yadkin River will not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.
But a much smaller "Yadkin River Crossings District" could remain eligible.
The Keeper of the National Register informed the Federal Highway Administration last Friday that none of four "properties" under study -- the Trading Path and Trading Ford, the Yadkin Ford and Ferry, Greene's crossing at Trading Ford and the Battle at Camp Yadkin -- "were demonstrated to be eligible" under various criteria.
The Keeper's decision is a setback for Salisbury historian Ann Brownlee, who for years has challenged state and federal authorities to preserve the historical significance of the Trading Ford area.
Her efforts have been successful in that the Federal Highway Administration, N.C. Department of Transportation and State Historic Preservation Office agree that there should be a Yadkin River Crossings District placed on the National Register.
But Brownlee has fought for a much larger district, particularly one that included the four resources mentioned earlier.
Brownlee promotes a Trading Ford Historic District that has 10,000 years of history, including Native American sites; an unknown site of a 16th century Spanish fort; the remains of 17th and 19th century roads, fords and ferries; important Revolutionary War and Civil War events; and significant bridges.
She founded the Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association in 2003, and has voiced concerns that the DOT's eventual realignment of I-85, Alcoa's relicensing efforts for the Yadkin Project, the proposed development of a High Rock International Raceway and the possibility of a new Duke Power facility would further destroy the area's history.
Brownlee said Wednesday she had received no official word from the National Register but had a copy of an e-mail from Rob Ayers, environmental programs coordinator for the N.C. Division of the Federal Highway Administration.
Ayers also sent her a copy of the notice about the four sites that he had received from the National Register of Historic Places.
The Post's efforts to contact the National Register were not successful Wednesday.
Another e-mail from Ayers reports on the Keeper's decision and says the only remaining step under the Section 106 process would be to assess the effects of the future I-85 project on the still eligible historic district -- the smaller Yadkin River Crossings District.
Brownlee said she was furious. "No one has read what I have ever written," she said. "I have said things over and over that no one has ever read."
In his e-mail report, Ayers says the Federal Highway Administration has made a good faith effort to determine the eligibility of the four resources.
He says the effort included asking the Keeper for a determination of eligibility, even though his office had agreement from the State Historic Preservation Office; arranging a teleconference call for many parties to provide information to the Keeper; performing additional research and evaluation; and delaying the "project delivery schedule."
While the DOT project in question has been shelved for now because of budget constraints, it still has to have Section 106 compliance before federal highway dollars can be spent on the I-85 widening across the Yadkin River, to include a new bridge.
As the project went through the planning stages, the DOT, Federal Highway Administration and State Historic Preservation Office maintained that it complied with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
But Brownlee argued that the four additional resources within the project area should be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and should be protected as much as possible against any future road project.
The DOT granted her consulting party status in July 2003.
By June 2004, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation directed the Federal Highway Administration to ask the Keeper of the National Register to make a "determination of eligibility" on the four additional resources.
The Federal Highway Administration made that request to the Keeper by September 2004. Two months later, the Keeper requested additional information from the state and federal officials on all four sites and, Ayers said, posed additional questions regarding a potential historic district.
Ayers' office then arranged a teleconference call that included Brownlee and representatives from the Keeper's office, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, N.C. DOT, State Historic Preservation Office, N.C. Office of State Archaeology, Alcoa Power Generating Inc. and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
URS Corp. of Morrisville prepared an assessment of National Register eligibility for the N.C. DOT and Federal Highway Administration and gave its final report in July 2005.
The report basically concluded that none of the four resources would be individually eligible for listing on the National Register "given the lack of association with the identified district and their compromised integrity," Ayers said in a November 2005 letter to the National Register.
The Federal Highway Administration considered the possibility of a small historic district, concluding with the State Historic Preservation office that there is an eligible district.
"However, none of the four sites ... were determined to be contributing elements in their entirety," Ayers said in his e-mail.
The state and federal officials' assessment describes a Yadkin River Crossings District and says it should be eligible under three criteria: for its association with significant historical patterns; as a significant and distinguishable entity; and as an archaeological resource likely to yield important information not accessible through other sources.
The resources in this district include:
* The remnant stone piers (circa 1820) of Beard's Bridge/ Piedmont Toll Bridge.
* Fort York or Camp Yadkin and its earthen fortification remnants of the Civil War encampment, including trenches, berms, rifle pits and artillery positions.
* Wilcox Bridge, constructed in 1924.
* A second U.S. 29/70 bridge that was constructed in 1953.
* North Carolina Railroad Bridge No. 1, constructed in 1907, with "rusticated stone abutments and piers" from an 1855 bridge at the site.
* North Carolina Railroad Bridge No. 2, constructed in 1919.
* Trading Path road trace, historically documented to the late 17th century, an .8-mile trace of an old road bed.
The State Historic Preservation Office also had recommended that the district be expanded to include the main channel of the Yadkin River and Big Island, located south of the I-85 bridge. They would be "contributing natural landscape features to the district," Peter Sandbeck, administrator for the State Historic Preservation Office said in a September 2005 letter.
The island was significant in fording and ferrying the Yadkin River, Sandbeck said, adding "as such, the river and island significantly contribute to the district's transportation history and provide a more complete picture of its early crossings."
The district's period of significance should be from 1770 (when Big Island begins to appear on historical maps) to 1953, when the U.S. 29/70 bridge was built, according to Sandbeck.
But the state and federal parties later agreed that the river channel should not be included in the district because the river's banks, depth and course were irreparably altered by the river's impoundment in 1927 by High Rock dam.