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‘Position on Zemp Stadium remains unchanged’

Posted: October 3, 2014 1:29 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2014 1:00 a.m.

The every-other-year cycle of yard signs and voter passions has again brought Historic Camden onto the playing field as an involuntary political football participant despite our best attempts to stay on the sidelines concerning the future-of-Zemp debate. Historic Camden’s position on Zemp Stadium remains unchanged from the two published Historic Camden Blog articles dated November 7, 2011 (http://historiccamdenblog.tumblr.com/).

Paraphrasing from the blog: “There have been discussions for years about building a new stadium on the campus of the relatively new high school location. If this eventually comes to pass, Historic Camden advocates removal of the current Zemp Stadium as was done with Legion Field to restore the 18th century appearance of this property that was once bisected by the defensive palisade erected by the occupying British Forces during the Revolutionary War. The ultimate decision lies entirely with the school district of Kershaw County.”

Here are the facts concerning Historic Camden and Zemp Stadium.

1. Historic Camden does not own the land that Zemp Stadium occupies.

2. Historic Camden allows parking for all Camden High School stadium events on adjacent Historic Camden property as detailed in a contractual agreement with the Kershaw County School District.

3. The mutually agreed contract will expire in 2017 and will be up for re-negotiation in 2016.

4. Historic Camden has always worked to be a willing and generous city, county, school district and community partner, and intends to continue to do so in the future as well.

Historic Camden, unfortunately, is familiar with being a political football. For years various factions have staked out positions based on “supporting Historic Camden,” “because of Historic Camden,” or “on behalf of Historic Camden’s bid for National Park Status.” In truth, the positions advanced rarely actually have had dialogue with Historic Camden and, therefore, often give half-truths and promote misinformation using “Historic Camden” as a way to achieve their own particular goals.

But there is an advantage of being a gridiron or political football. Everyone’s eye is on the ball. And that gives Historic Camden an opportunity to clearly state our position on this as well as on larger issues affecting historic properties.

As change is contemplated in our town, with football fields, arenas, and tourism initiatives, optimal land usage and best return on investment debates are inevitable. Historic Camden’s mission is to be the regional advocate for early Camden, S.C., history through 1825, particularly its national significance as the colonial trade center of the Carolina Backcountry and the main British supply post during the American Revolution’s 1780-81 Southern Campaign. Accordingly, we preserve, protect, and when possible, reclaim our local historical heritage.

Rhame Arena, Zemp Stadium, and the adjacent basketball court across Bull Street are all modern intrusions on the heart of 18th century Camden. While Historic Camden is acutely aware that these modern structures (or in the parlance of the National Park System, “obstructions”) overlay the original town square, a portion of the 18th century defended palisaded township of Camden and the original Colonial town market, today most citizens of Camden are uninformed. But awareness of Camden’s colonial topography is more than idle historic knowledge, it is a historical path to our future.

Creating historic deliverables to visitors are fundamental to current cultural and historical tourism development. The more modern Camden preserves, protects and reclaims our unique and nationally significant historical heritage sites, and invests in interpreting these sites for visitors and local citizens alike, the more economic and cultural resources our future community will have.

Putting new modern structures on untouched historical grounds is a step backwards. Removing outdated intrusions that are replaced by new structures on less historical grounds is a step forward. Renovation of existing structures that continue to serve the community, while not ideal from a strictly historical perspective, are understandable with the caveat that when functional utility is eventually exhausted, the historic site can be restored by removal of the intrusion is a step, albeit delayed, forward.

Decisions about properties not owned by Historic Camden are ultimately up to elected officials representing the people of our community. Don’t judge Historic Camden on rumor, innuendo, misinformation or deceptive messages advancing one political position or another making Historic Camden a political football. Call a time out and check with a Historic Camden referee.

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