(UPDATE: Repairs at Devil’s Den began as scheduled on March 21st.)

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Two major renovation projects start at Gettysburg National Military Park this year. Both will require closing a popular location. Work here at Little Round Top will last 12 to 18 months.

A few hundred yards away at Devil’s Den, major repairs on the walkways will begin on March 21 and last five or six months.

Jason Martz, the Communications Specialist for the park, pointed out trouble spots. There are a lot of them.

“The paths are very much in trouble, and it’s been that way for many years,” he says. “Serious erosion has occurred, and has undercut the walkways and pathways around the large massive boulders here at Devil’s Den, and it’s really causing some serious safety hazards.”

A stone stairway that serves as a main entrance to the Den is literally crumbling.

“What you see here is over time, many of the original stones and concrete has long since worn away, either through time or erosion, cooling, and warming of the weather, Martz said. “This is symptomatic of the issues we have around the Devil’s Den area. All of this is going to be reworked.”

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One of the main paths near the top of Devil’s Den looks fine while you walk along it, but over the years, the ground has washed away around it and under it. Martz drew our attention to some collapsing asphalt next to the path.

“This blacktop went all the way to the edge of the concrete curb, and then to the level trail. And you can see all of this had just fallen away over the years creating a serious safety hazard.”

One big problem facing both Devil’s Den and Little Round Top is what are called “social trails,” paths created by visitors seeking shortcuts.

“Social trails wind up being direct A to B cut-throughs,” says Martz. Sometimes A to B cuts up and down. Martz showed up on such a trail.

“When that happens and we get a good rain, all that rain washes farther and farther down, with more and more energy, and the problem just gets worse and worse and worse.”

“It looks like something you’d see in the Grand Canyon,” he adds.

Park officials are well aware the simultaneous closings of two of their most popular locations will upset many visitors. They are hoping people will understand there really wasn’t much they could do about it.

“The Devil’s Den project” Martz explains, “Was initially put forward in 2011. Eleven years ago. And we’re just now able to get everything lined up as far as funding, federal funding through the National Park Service, and getting contractors lined up, dealing with the recent pandemic, with covid 19, and any number of different issues.”

“At no point did we specifically set out to close both of these highly, highly important locations on the battlefield at the same time. This was purely coincidence and had we any other way to do it, I assure the public that we would have tried to find another way.

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“What’s happening at Little Round Top, and what’s happening at Devil’s Den, needed to be done and has needed to be done for many, many years.”