Tourism Commission struggles to preserve Civil War Fort at Boonesboro
Aureilio Beltran, an employee of Doyle¿s Lawn and Landscaping of Winchester, cut away a thicket of weeds around the edge of the fort. The landscaping company has donated labor and material to help the cash-strapped historic site. (James Mannfirstname.lastname@example.org / July 7, 2011)
At a June 23 Fiscal Court meeting, Nancy Turner, executive director of the commission, asked the court for help in providing for the fort’s upkeep. Concerns brought up at the meeting were a fallen tree that has been there since January, tree limbs hanging over the path to the fort, yellow jackets’ nests on the front of the wall where one walks up to the fort and tree stumps needing to be removed.
The site also needs more gravel on the path, and at the time of the meeting, hadn’t been mowed all year.
The court put a $2,500 line item in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget for the fort, and County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said the county didn’t have anywhere else to pull from its work force to help at the site because every department’s resources are stretched so thin right now.
County Attorney Brian Thomas voiced concern that if the county gave additional resources to the Civil War Fort, then it would have to undertake all the other requests from other properties.
“We are very grateful, and they have been a good partner,” Turner said last week. “We’re just at a point now where we just physically can’t maintain it.”
Turner said the Tourism Commission has contributed about $119,000 to the site through budgeted funds, and it has applied for and administered a total of $360,000 in grants.
Turner said the commission can’t afford to put any more into the site.
The Winchester Board of Commissioners donated 50 tons of gravel for the path to the fort left over from Public Works at a June 29 meeting, but because the Fiscal Court is the body that purchased the property in 2000, the Tourism Commission has primarily turned there for help.
Since the Fiscal Court meeting, Turner said the land at the fort has been mowed and areas have been weeded, but the other problems remain. She said the site wouldn’t require a lot to maintain. “It’s just taking care of some issues like the stump removal.”
If maintenance was started every spring, mulching done once a year and mowing done once a month with the managing of weeds, overall upkeep would be minimal, she said.
Boy Scout troops, ROTC¿groups, prisoners and other volunteers have done cleanup and building projects, but Turner said it’s a challenge to coordinate all the different community volunteer efforts. She also said because she has a family now, it’s harder for her to get to the site and do all the maintenance work needed as frequently as she used to be able to.
Last Thursday, she was at the fort overseeing mulching done by Doyle’s Lawn and Landscaping, which the company donated for free after doing other contract work at the site.
“Like everybody else, we’re having to cut back our budget … and we don’t have the funds to do this at this point. And prior to, I did the mulching. We had Scouts here to mulch, but this is wonderful, because we could never have afforded a landscape crew to come in,” Turner said.
Jerry Raisor, a curator of the Kentucky River Museum at Fort Boonesborough State Park, was the one who told the Tourism Commission about the remnants of the Union-operated Civil War fort in 1998. Raisor said the site is “really important to Clark County and to Kentucky from the standpoint that (it) was a major defensive line” during the war.
“Obviously it makes the Clark Countians a little more aware of what happened here, and it’s amazing to me how few people knew of its existence and the importance of it,” he said. “ … when you’re up there, it’s more than just a Civil War site. When you’re sitting up there on top of that hill … you can stand up there, and that’s the highest point around here.”
Raisor said that if the site isn’t maintained, it would ultimately revert back into obscurity again. He said it is important to maintain it for greenspace in the community, especially because the Winchester-Clark County area is one of the fastest growing in central Kentucky.
“You don’t have greenspace and places for people to decompress out of the city, (and) you got all kinds of problems,” he said.
Elizabeth Chalfant, a Winchester-Clark County Tourism director, said her main concern is the safety of the visiting community. She said that although no visitors have said anything about the problems, it’s only a matter of time.