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Fort Smith Park Reveals History, Scenic View in St. Joseph

Fort Smith Park opened to the public, nearly 10 years after the project began. The Civil War site carries history, but also a view of the city many have been waiting a long time to see.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A big day arrived for St. Joseph Friday as the city unveiled an updated piece of the past.

Fort Smith Park opened to the public, nearly 10 years after the project began.

The Civil War site carries history, but also a view of the city many have been waiting a long time to see.

Standing in front of a brand new structure overlooking the city, Joe Houts shared his excitement.

"I feel - really - a sense of accomplishment," he said.

The vision - brought to life by a dedicated team - offers a view of the past and present. Fort Smith Park is built on top of a Civil War site rediscovered in 2003.

"At the time that it was found, this site was completely overgrown with vegetation, large mature trees. You wouldn't recognize it today," said Bruce Woody, St. Joseph city manager.

That's because Houts and others refused to give up on this piece of property. They researched and raised money, all to share the story of what once was.

"We were like the center of communication and transportation for the country at the time of the Civil War. That's why 2,500 troops were put up here with 12 canons to hold St. Joe. We were rotating back and forth between confederate and union troops," said Houts, a member of St. Joseph's Civil War Committee.

Now, anyone can stand where those troops once stood.

"To see this today, it's totally amazing," said Pat Jones, St. Joseph City Council.

"Even if your interest in Civil War history is moderate, come up for the view if nothing else," added Woody.

The modern view includes three authentic reproduction cannons, a lookout point, flags and signage and an ordnance shed.

"It's just a passive park. You come and take it as you want. Have a picnic. Just gaze. Come back in the fall as the leaves are down, you'll be amazed at how good the view is," said Houts.

Donations and grant money helped pay for the Fort Smith Park project. The park is located off St. Joseph Avenue on Bellevue Street.

Click here for directions and more information about the park.

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