Preservation Goals

As the battlefield is not located within any municipality, zoning regulations or regular management are not in place for battlefield preservation. Securing a long-term, and perhaps permanent land use and management plan is the primary goal and treatment recommended for Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Protection is recommended through acquisition of key parcels, obtaining easements, designating the Battlefield as a park unit in the National Park System, establishing an interpretive visitor center, developing educational opportunities and visitor experiences, and strengthening ties to local, state, and federal organizations. Priorities for protection are described in detail and specific strategies identified in the plan.

Click here for Palmito Ranch Battlefield Preservation Plan document


The PRBPP envisions preservation and rehabilitation treatment for Palmito Ranch Battlefield to integrate both the fully interpreted site history and vernacular natural resources into a new dynamic cultural landscape system by exploring landscape preservation strategies.

Priority Goals

The primary goals of land preservation at the Palmito Ranch Battlefield are meant to ensure that land is protected from future development, that the site is able to maintain its historic integrity, and to ensure the perpetual protection of the entire battlefield. Based on the previous archaeological investigations, opportunities and concerns identified from previous projects, and the site and historical analysis, the following priority goals for Palmito Ranch Battlefield have been established. Taken together, these goals will inform a strategy with specific, prioritized actions to guide preservation efforts and ensure the long-term protection of the battlefield.


Goal 1: Protect the Battlefield Land in Perpetuity

Palmito Ranch Battlefield is under Cameron County administration but not located within any municipality. Therefore, there are no zoning regulations or regular management in place for battlefield preservation. Securing a long-term, and perhaps permanent land use and management plan is the primary goal and treatment recommended for Palmito Ranch Battlefield.

Palmito Ranch Battlefield (TX005) has been a designated National Historic Landmark since 1993 but not legally protected by any preservation means. The Battlefield is ranked as Priority II in the 2010 CWSAC Texas Battlefield report, meaning comprehensive planning is suggested. This would call for such mechanisms as a protective easement and long-term support and governance. It is therefore recommended that the Core Areas of the battlefield be protected either by outright purchase or easement to avoid any negative consequences resulting from development and urbanization. There are currently 6,268.77 acres of battlefield permanently protected by the state of Texas as part of Boca Chica State Park and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Lower Rio Grande River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. However, more than 2,500 acres of land remained unprotected.

Strategy 1: Land Acquisition–Fee simple purchase

Purchasing the battlefield land is the best way to protect the site from the numerous threats identified herein, and others that may arise, because it also allows the land acquired to be further interpreted for improving the site’s historic integrity. Purchasing land also provides for group tours and tourists to experience the site directly. The ABPP has named specific criteria for setting priorities in regard to the preservation of individual battlefield parcels to be protected immediately, in the short-term, and in the long-term. The following categories for setting priorities are recommended:

  • Historical significance
  • Level of threat
  • Interpretive viability
  • Presence/absence of important cultural resources (such as earthworks and archeological sites)
  • Significant viewsheds
  • Landscape continuity (proximity to other parcels already under protection)
  • Management issues (i.e., parcels appropriate for visitor service facilities).


Small parcels in and around Palmito Hill hold special intrinsic and historic value for the battlefield that should be preserved and enhanced with on-site historic and cultural interpretation. Currently, the core area is mainly comprised of privately owned land (shaded in orange in the map in below) along with other types of property ownership. Potential land for purchase includes parcels within the Core Area of the battlefield and the National Historic Landmark boundary. These areas are worthy of purchase for permanent protection and rehabilitation of the historic battlefield lands and meet the individual parcel priority criteria suggested by ABPP. The ABPP Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants program is an ideal outlet to help acquire and protect the Palmito Ranch Battlefield against current and emerging threats. Purchasing the land within the core area around Palmito Hill will also protect the battlefield’s important viewshed as it is the highest point of the site, while also providing the base for future establishment of the battlefield park and visitors center. A map of parcel assessed values in the Core Areas and a table of all parcels within the core areas is in Appendix A.

Map showing ownership types within the Palmito Ranch Battlefield site and the Core Area.
Map showing ownership types within the Palmito Ranch Battlefield site and the Core Area.


Appraised land values for parcels in the Palmito Ranch Battlefield Core Areas. Map by Matt Jackson, data source Cameron County public records.

Appraised land values for parcels in the Palmito Ranch Battlefield Core Areas. Map by Matt Jackson, data source Cameron County public records.


Strategy 2: Obtain Easements

Another tool that is often used successfully in the preservation of battlefields is a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a legal transfer of rights to use all or part of a property for a certain purpose. The agreement is between a property owner and a third party such as a land trust, public agency, or preservation organization, and it generally restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on the property. In a conservation easement agreement, a landowner sells or gives away some rights while retaining others. For example,
these rights may include the right to construct buildings, harvest timber, restrict access, or subdivide the land.

1) Cultural Conservation Easement
A conservation easement is a legal agreement tailored to protect the natural resources on a specific piece of land. For the Palmito Ranch Battlefield, it is proposed to acquire a cultural conservation easement as a tool for protecting and managing the battlefield with a special emphasis on the land’s cultural resources. By conveying some of the land owner’s rights or by permanently restricting specific uses (e.g., buildings for commercial purposes) or development of the land, the easement would grant the Palmito Ranch permanent rights to help steward the critical part of the battlefield, cultural relearning and public education in partnership with regional public agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, and the people who are central to their creation story.

Historic preservation covenants and easements are voluntary legal agreements made between a property owner and a qualified organization to protect a significant historic property, landscape, or archaeological site by restricting future development of the property. Such an agreement may restrict changes or development to the entire property or to a more limited portion, such as a facade or the exterior of a building. The agreement specifies what portions of the property are protected, how long the protections remain in effect, and what controls or reviews are required for proposed changes. Under some circumstances, property owners who enter into a qualified preservation easement in perpetuity can receive tax benefits while still retaining ownership of the property. There are available historic easement programs administered by the Texas Historical Commission (THC) such as the Texas Preservation Trust Fund (TPTF) and Certified Local Government (CLG) grants. CLG funding is aimed at preserving local historic resources and is available for participating city and county governments. Both programs have a one-to-one matching requirement.

2) Agricultural Conservation Easement
An agricultural conservation easement is another option to protect some portion of the battlefield lands, especially productive agricultural land or private ranches. The agricultural conservation easement functions through a deed restriction that landowners voluntarily place on their property to protect the land. If applied within the Palmito Ranch Battlefield site, the historic integrity would continue to remain with little land use change in the future. As such, the battlefield lands protected by agricultural conservation easement would be afforded the
benefits of historic preservation, along with additional public benefits accrued including the protection of ground and surface water quality, wildlife habitat, and scenic views. Protecting the land through an agricultural conservation easement would also allow the family-owned ranches and agricultural lands to keep their agricultural business.

There is an existing Agricultural Land easement program provided by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in which NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. In 2017 the ACEP granted $22 million for these easements and conserved 18,706 acres land in Texas.

Strategy 3: Acquire Property – Tools That Buy Time

A right-of-first-refusal is a contract that gives one party the right to be the first allowed to purchase a specific property if it is offered for sale before that property can be sold to anyone else. Obtaining the right-of-first-refusal is a proactive tool for battlefield land acquisition to secure land which is not yet on the market to be purchased by the preservation agency once it becomes available.

Strategy 4: Designate the Battlefield as a Park Unit in the National Park System

Since 1872,the National Park System has added 380 units by an act of Congress that encompass national parks, monuments, historical sites, trails, reserves, and other designations. Palmito Ranch Battlefield, as one of the most significant Civil War sites at the federal, state and local levels, can be considered as a candidate unit of the NPS as it meets the following NPS required criteria:

  • Possess nationally significant natural, cultural and recreational resources
  • Be a suitable and feasible addition to the National Park System

Given the fact that Palmito Ranch is currently not included within any municipality, it lacks a
long-term management source. Designating it as a unit of the NPS is beneficial to the battlefield because it can provide long-term stewardship and professional management and treatment, boost local economic development via tourism, and bring rehabilitation projects stimulated by tax incentives. It is noteworthy that Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Brownsville, Texas, has been designated as a national historical park and is 15 miles away from Palmito Ranch. An NPS designation of Palmito Ranch Battlefield as a national historical park presents an opportunity for integrating public open space into a comprehensive system in the Texas Gulf Coast region. This can help increase public awareness of the battlefield, ensure its long-term preservation and management, boost the regional economy, and provide the public with passive recreation and educational opportunities and human well-being benefits. Some of the drawbacks of this strategy include the time needed to complete the NPS park designation process and the added costs for park management and residence service staff.


Goal 2: Develop Historical Cultural Tourism and Education Programs

Developing historical cultural tourism and youth education programs at Palmito Ranch are two efficient ways to improve public interpretation and preserve the site’s historic integrity. Preserving the authentic, historic sense of place and establishing a comprehensive interpretation network also helps attract tourists. Developing tourism can not only boost local economies, but it also increases public awareness of the site’s historic integrity, gaining more public support for the battlefield preservation, such as volunteering and private fundraising. Historic preservation is a major industry in Texas and a key component of economic growth. In the year 2013 alone, preservation activities in Texas generated more than $4.6 billion of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), and supported more than 79,000 Texas jobs (University of Texas at Austin and Rutgers University, 2015). Research has shown that sites and smaller towns that invest in historic preservation attract visitors who spend more on local goods and services than non-heritage travelers. In 2013, both day and overnight heritage travelers in Texas
spent on average over $175 per day, while non-heritage travelers spent less than $145 per day.

The battlefield is situated alongside Texas Highway 4 in Cameron County, a state road connected to Interstate Highway 69E. It enjoys a convenient location that is a 20-minute drive from the city of Brownsville, and a one-and-one-half hour drive from the city of McAllen. Boca Chica State Park and several coastal beach resorts are also close to the battlefield—all of which are connected by TX Highway 4. Given the fact that the battlefield also shares its southern boundary with the U.S.-Mexico International Border and has easy access to transportation routes, it attracts a certain amount of local people from the region in addition to tourists from further away.

Strategy 1: Establish an Interpretive Visitors Center

An interpretive visitors center with relevant battlefield information can serve as a starting point for historical cultural tours of the battlefield site. Outfitted with the basic facilities such as a parking lot, restrooms, and gift shop, the visitors center will be a place to display brochures, exhibit the warfare mementos in a gallery, and provide high-tech devices for immersive battle scenes. Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D movies, for example, are successfully utilized in museums and galleries with the advantage of better engaging the visitors. The visitors center would encourage travelers to stop and visit for various useful information. The center will play an important role to reinforce the identity of the battlefield place, deliver historical interpretation, and promote interactive communication with the physical site and battlefield stories of the past and present. To underscore the Civil War history, especially the fact that Palmito Ranch is the site of the last land engagement between Union and Confederate forces, the places where fighting occurred could be recreated through the exhibition of military facilities and sculptures.

Rendering depicting the exterior view of a new visitors center at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Nastaran Hashemi.

Rendering depicting the exterior view of a new visitors center at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Nastaran Hashemi.


Rendering depicting an interior view of a new visitors center at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Nastaran Hashemi.

Rendering depicting an interior view of a new visitors center at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Nastaran Hashemi.


Strategy 2: Increase Linkages to Local Education Entities

Another important strategy to increase community involvement is to improve the connection
among local universities and K-12 schools by sharing educational content and activities (e.g., field trip programs).

Action Plan 1: Develop history education modules.
Developing history education modules that can be shared with classes (history, social science, anthropology, or other interested areas of study) and local outreach programs (e.g., history clubs, geocaching, or Scouting) is an effective way to increase awareness of Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Lessons about the site can be developed for teachers/leaders to use in curriculums at a variety of educational levels. Considering the battlefield’s rich environmental quality, lessons can also be developed that instruct students about the biodiversity in the region and the importance of utilizing sustainable practices in the battlefield’s preservation. These can be coordinated with field trips to the site to provide hands-on learning.

Action Plan 2: Establish an Education Liaison
The appointment of an education liaison who facilitates educational collaboration with schools will make it easier to bring students to the battlefield for historical tours. The education liaison can develop the lesson plans and be a point person on site when school groups are visiting.

Strategy 3: Develop Self-guided Historic Cultural Tour Routes

Self-guided tours are a popular option for many tourists as it allows them the freedom to determine for themselves the sites to visit and amount of time to spend at each. Existing on￾site trails at Palmito Ranch should be maintained in place, but the trail system should be expanded to include new trails incorporating different themes and programs (history interpretation, riverfront capture, wildlife exploratory); as well as different modes (pedestrian￾only, bicycle, or vehicle-permitted). Potential action plans to achieve this strategy include the development of walk/bike trails capitalizing on key views and good interactive experiences with the battlefield landscape, the development of distinctive themes and programs aligned with the characteristics of each tour route, and the development of half-day and one-day tour programs operating year-round.


Goal 3: Rehabilitate the Battlefield

Palmito Ranch Battlefield has experienced little land change since the Civil War period, managing to hold on to the unique historical value and healthy ecosystem with native plant species and precious wildlife habitats—all while facing threats from large-scale utility construction and commercial development. Nevertheless, it is challenging for the general public (especially younger generations) to read and understand the historic landscape as there are not distinctive structural features other than land form and open terrain. As a part of the comprehensive treatment of the cultural landscape, rehabilitating the Palmito Ranch Battlefield to its 1865 appearance to more closely resemble the vegetation and trees during the battle time is recommended to bring the historic sense of place and increase the historic landscape literacy. The potential strategies to achieve this goal include removal of non-historic trees, planting of wooded areas that no longer have trees, re-shaping the riverbank corridor with historic vegetation, recreating any missing natural structures, and the removal of non￾historic buildings and overhead utility lines, and so on.

Examples of potential entrance and gateway elements to enhance visitor’s experience and encourage tourism to the battlefield core area at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Pan Zhang

Examples of potential entrance and gateway elements to enhance visitor’s experience and encourage tourism to the battlefield core area at Palmito Ranch Battlefield. Image: Pan Zhang


Strategy 1: Viewshed Protection

Palmito Hill, located on the site of the Old Palmito Ranch, is the point of highest elevation in this very flat region and, as such, served as the focal point of action during the battle. While the hill survives, large industrial structures at the Port of Brownsville north of the wildlife refuge diminish the overall quality of the site’s integrity by damaging the historic viewshed.
The interpretive platform constructed in 2014 and funded by the USFWS South Texas Refuge Complex in the battlefield core area provides a 360-degree view of the whole battlefield area with profile signage. However, the viewsheds have/will become more and more disturbed and obstructed by large-scale construction projects including the SpaceX and LNG facilities and the rapid urbanization of the areas close to City of Brownsville. A thorough analysis and assessment of the impacts of these human interventions on the integrity of the battlefield needs to be conducted in the short-, mid-, and long-terms as part of the post-construction monitoring process. A new ordinance to mandate comprehensive viewshed assessment is recommended for any new proposed development projects.

Strategy 2: Battlefield Gateway Enhancement

Palmito Ranch Battlefield is located along the TX-4 highway (aka, Boca Chica Boulevard), the only route to enter the battlefield site. This transportation corridor connects the city of Brownsville and the Gulf of Mexico and marks the northern boundary of Palmito Ranch. The entry point to the extended battlefield site (the location where TX-4 intersects the eastern edge of Brownsville) serves as a “threshold” of the important access to the battlefield site. However, there is no significant signage or architectural structure to help visitors and passing vehicles recognize the existence of the battlefield. By providing visible features to travelers transitioning from the urban site to the historic space, the entry gateway features will help raise public awareness for battlefield protection and direct travelers to the inner part (the core area) of the site, thus allowing them more opportunities to explore the cultural landscape. It will also improve the historical identity of the site visually, in addition to increasing local residents’ and travelers’ morale of being present at the historically significant place. Examples of gateway feature types include roadside battle element sculptures or statues, stone/wooden entrance milestones, small semi-open pavilions, roadside signage, art sculptures representing historic artifacts, wayside pull-offs for interaction or demonstration areas, and other types of facilities that are accessible to the public and match its historic importance. Since the Palmito Ranch Battlefield is in a rural setting with flat topography, the nature of the entry gateway features should be designed with both human-scale (designs equivalent in size to the human body) and environmental-scale (structures that use natural materials to create works of art in the environment) in mind, rather than the monumental scale that dominates the immediate surroundings. Below presents examples of potential gateway design interventions at the battlefield entrance and near the core area.


Goal 4: Enhance the Health of Eco-Cultural Resources in the Battlefield

Strategy 1: Ecosystem Preservation

Currently the major portion of the battlefield site is part of Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge managed by the USFWS. Securing this portion of battlefield lands in the long-term beyond a lease agreement period would significantly contribute to protection and rehabilitation of not only natural resources but also the landscape features associated closely with the history of the Palmito Ranch battle. Visitors to the site will encounter a wide variety of ecosystems. Sand dunes along the coastal area are a threatened but precious ecosystem that supports unique wildlife and promotes landscape aesthetics. The dunes give way to mesquite stands, cacti, shrublands, and small hills as visitors move through the battlefield. Birds, butterflies, and other animals are other sites to enjoy. The native flora and fauna and other ecologically important habitats and ecosystems in and around the battlefield site add value to the historic significance of the battlefield and helps visitors “see” the land as the soldiers encountered it.

Strategy 2: Flood Control & Sea Level Rise Adaptation

Palmito Ranch Battlefield lies on the 11, 12, and 13 feet 100-year floodplain base elevations (Zone AE), along with part of the Rio Grande riverfront land located in a V flood zone (subject to wave action) based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data. This means the battlefield area is considered to have a 1 percent or greater chance of flooding and high risk of coastal hazards associated with storm waves. Protecting the existing on-site coastal dunes is critical to prevent a large magnitude of flooding issues and to respond to future sea level rise scenarios. Other proactive adaptation and mitigation measures related to climate change, such as a living shoreline concept, need to be discussed and prepared through a community participatory planning process. Natural riparian setbacks are proposed as another option to protect the battlefield from the flooding events. Suggested action plans include developing a vulnerability assessment system in response to natural disasters and developing a coastal resilience plan to minimize the significant loss of critical cultural resources in the Palmito Ranch Battlefield.

Strategy 3: Conservation Development

There are no zoning regulations guiding efforts for protecting the battlefield land as Palmito Ranch Battlefield is located outside the Brownsville city limits. Presupposing that any portions of the battlefield property are annexed into the city of Brownsville and proposed for development, conservation development is recommended as a passive preservation mechanism. Conservation development is a controlled-growth land use development approach that allows limited sustainable development while protecting the area’s natural environmental features in perpetuity, including preserving open space, landscape and vista, protecting farmland or natural habitats for wildlife, and maintaining the character of rural communities. This would ensure that those who wish to continue farming can do so.


Goal 5: Increase Public Awareness and Community Engagement

Strategy 1: Community Service Program Development

Developing community-based outreach and engagement programs would help strengthen preservation efforts and community cohesion simultaneously. The suggested action plans include invigorating existing programs such as the annual Park Day and extending it to various city, county, and state voluntary programs in conjunction with other programs and events administered by support groups.

Strategy 2: Interpretation Program Development

Develop an interpretation program capitalizing on the individual and family experiences of local residents and knowledge of retired history educators. This would provide significant volunteer educational, cultural and natural resource advising services to the neighboring towns and cities and the public, as well as the more general public benefits of deepening the region’s understanding of Civil War history at Palmito Ranch and surrounding areas.

Strategy 3: Interpreter Training Program Development

Develop an interpretation program capitalizing on the individual and family experiences of local residents and knowledge of retired history educators. This would provide significant volunteer educational, cultural and natural resource advising services to the neighboring towns and cities and the public, as well as the more general public benefits of deepening the region’s understanding of Civil War history at Palmito Ranch and surrounding areas.

Strategy 4: Development and Utilization of Online Communication Platforms

Leverage social networking systems and the Palmito Ranch Battlefield official website created as a part of this grant project. The website provides the battle story, battlefield landscapes, cultural tourism resources, battle simulation video, historical interpretation, and other related information to help the general public understand the physical, cultural, and natural contexts of the battlefield site and the importance of battlefield preservation. Suggested action plans include developing social media sites and establishing a website management system.


Goal 6: Increase Effective Preservation Governance

Strategy 1: Interagency and Transdisciplinary Collaboration

Action Plan 1: Reinforce existing partnerships to activate ongoing preservation efforts.
The Texas Historical Commission (THC), the state agency for historic preservation, has played significant roles in preserving the Palmito Ranch Battlefield since 2007 by engaging and organizing the national and regional partnership development to increase interpretation of the historic site. A major part of this effort is Park Day at Palmito Ranch Battlefield National Historic Landmark, which is an annual event to clean up and repair the grounds of Civil War battlefields. The THC in
conjunction with the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (NHP), the USFWS’s South Texas Refuge Complex, and with support from the Brownsville Historical Association, and the Cameron County Historical Commission, have worked together since 2008 to host Park Day. Action Plan 2: Initiate new partnerships extended to potential advocacy groups. As identified through the previous Palmito Ranch Battlefield grant project, the Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail (CWT) program promoted by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)’s CHAPS project is an excellent resource to collaborate with. As one of the destinations of the historical tour, the Palmito Ranch would enrich visitors’ experiences as well as those who are traveling along the Trail. The list below are potential partners for collaboration and advocacy.

  • Cameron County Historical Commission
  • Cameron County Parks & Recreation Department
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Private ranchers and residents
  • Brownsville Heritage Council
  • Brownsville Historical Association
  • American Battlefield Trust
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (currently serves the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge)
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Development
  • The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Texas Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA) and other design, planning, and management entities
  • Texas Master Naturalist Program
  • Friends of the Wildlife Corridor (supports the land acquisition goals, projects, activities, and outreach plans of the Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges)

Strategy 2: Establish a Non-Profit Advocacy Organization

As a long term preservation strategy, establishing a standing, non-profit organization that plays a central role in protecting the historic battlefield is recommended, for example, a Friends of Palmito Ranch Battleground group. This was also a recommended strategy for Palmito Ranch in the 2010 CWSAC report from NPS. This type of advocacy group would plan and execute consistent and long-term efforts to preserve the historic site when public funding and management for historical preservation are absent. In addition, the organization would function as a facilitator and mediator working with governments and public-private entities, help to raise funds from various sources, ensure proper financial management, and make all the preservation efforts for the battlefield transparent and accessible to the public. It can create an identity for individuals who join the stewardship organization. As noted in the CWSAC report, “the majority of protected battlefield land in Texas has been conserved for its role as natural wildlife habitat and not for its historical significance, [and] there is an intense need for long￾range preservation planning and public-private efforts to protect what remains of the state’s Civil War landscape” (p. 5). Battlefield preservation needs grassroots activism grounded in genuine passion for the battlefield history and the cultural assets the communities have held and inherited since the Civil War period. A centralized preservation organization for Palmito Ranch would create a system to better coordinate and support needed long-lasting preservation activities.

Strategy 3: Monitor Preservation Status

Suggested action plans include developing a comprehensive monitoring program to check the preservation status of the cultural resources and all above mentioned strategies and proposed preservation programs at short-, mid-, and long-term points. This will help ensure that professional archaeological investigations are conducted wherever possible to extend previous efforts. A monitoring program will also assist in establishing a regular maintenance and repair plan of the Battlefield and its artifacts. Specific guidelines, criteria, and monitoring frequency need to be developed to properly guide the future preservation direction for the Palmito Ranch Battlefield.


Goal 7: Promote Diverse Cultural and Historical Interpretation

Strategy 1: Wayfinding

Developing and securing a signage system from the access road to the battlefield entry that continues within the battlefield site has a dual purpose. It will attract potential tourists as they travel along Highway 4, and then once inside the battlefield, help visitors navigate the site. The on-site signage should be informative and creative to clearly convey the site’s historic interpretation, guide tourists through routes and trails, and embrace universal design principles throughout the Battlefield. Specific designs incorporating icons, logos, and a slogan for the Palmito Ranch Battlefield are feasible ideas for publicizing the battlefield. Interpretive signs, artifacts, and exhibits can also be used to highlight the role of the USCT and Hispanic soldiers in the battle. Improving the existing wayside exhibits and adding new exhibits and arts and crafts are additional potential strategies for wayfinding through public interpretation.

Strategy 2: Augmented Reality (AR) Technology as a Communication Tool

A wide range of modern technologies have been adapted to enhance visitors’ experiences at cultural sites to covey its history, including audio, video, interactive displays, and specially developed documentaries. Recovered and preserved artifacts located at a site are effective ways to connect people to history, but for some aspects of cultural assets, such as lost historical buildings or battlefield events that cannot be recreated, it can be difficult for the majority of interested viewers to experience them. Recently, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies have been increasingly employed to overcome these obstacles and to promote cultural values and enrich visitors’ experiences. Advanced technologies like AR and VR are effective interactive tools for engaging visitors of diverse age groups. Recreated battle scenes using the VR platform allow those wearing VR headsets to emerge themselves in the virtual battle experience.

Conceptual rendering of visitors' experience using augmented reality tools. Image: Michael Ross.

Conceptual rendering of visitors’ experience using augmented reality tools. Image: Michael Ross.


VR is both entertaining and effective in encouraging learning processes. It allows users to become immersed in a 3D environment and experience situations that are very difficult or impossible to encounter in real life, such as volcanoes, ancient buildings, or historic battles. In contrast, AR is used to superimpose virtual objects onto physical real-world elements, like maps. AR is effective in capitalizing on existing knowledge and historical records to realize the visualized battle movements. The AR technology can be made readily accessible through an application on a mobile device when visitors scan QR codes printed in brochures or on interpretation boards. Deploying such a web-based AR application is suggested as part of the Palmito Ranch Battlefield preservation grant and is currently under development. The Palmito AR app will enable students and tourists to experience the historically significant Palmito Ranch Battlefield in a unique way. The app will use a printed map obtained from Google Maps that is a base for the AR environment in which 3D objects (e.g., infantry, gun fighter, cannon, flags, or fire) are superimposed onto the map. Other existing modern AR applications are installed directly to smart devices and rely on the resident operating systems, such as iOS or Android, and are therefore more device-specific. The Palmito AR application will be different, however, as it is aimed at bringing the AR experience to a more general audience (e.g., tourists, visitors, and students) by using a browser-supported device.