This will be long. Please read it. This is a noble cause to preserve a piece of history which requires your attention and help. Thank you.
Recently the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands has approved the construction of a 42 inch tall, 1,800 foot long Galvanized Steel fence at the Fort Knox historic site in Prospect, Maine, without the consultation of the Friends of Fort Knox, the private non-profit group which runs and maintains the fort. Since 1991 they have worked to restore and maintain the crumbling ruins which had long been neglected by the state, making extensive repairs to the fort, including repairing and opening parts of the fort and grounds which had been closed to the public for many years. They also literally saved the fort from collapse due to a leaking roof. Without this group of dedicated men and women, the fort as we know it would not exist. And now, the state is trying to turn the fort into what some have described as a prison without so much as seriously consulting the Friends. The massive serpentine fence system is being planned to prevent future injury.
Since 1982 there have been a slim 34 injuries and no deaths. That is just over 1 injury per year, not bad for a place built for war. With its tall walls, hard granite, long dark halls and damp stairs that have been described as "slippery when wet" one would expect that number to be much higher. The most recent significant injury was when a little boy, who was rolling down a hill, accidentally rolled off a ledge and falling approx. 10-15 feet. He needed to be flown by helicopter to the local hospital where he recovered fully. While this incident, and many others, are tragic, I, and many others, believe that a massive steel fence is, perhaps, over-kill. According to the state Historic Preservation Commission the fencing will "have an adverse effect on the forts integrity" and according to a recent article in the Bangor Daily news, the state Bureau of Parks and Lands admitted to understanding that the fencing will have "an adverse effect on the visual, atmospheric and audible elements". What this means, of course, is that the fort will no longer maintain its historic majesty and the fencing, which is being planned to increase safety, might actually threaten its integrity, not to mention its aesthetic beauty and views of the surrounding areas. A 42 inch fence on top of the already raised roof edges which stand approximately a foot and a half to two feet would bring the the minimum total height of the out cutrain wall to nearly 5 feet, truly making it appear as less of a fort and more of a prison.
As one of the states premier and fantastic forts from the Aroostook War (an early 19th century confrontation between England and the United States over Maines border) period, I feel like it is very important to keep it in as close condition as to that which it was originally intended. It is a piece of history, nearly as old as our great country itself. I don't think there is any doubt the fort can be potentially dangerous. I also think we'd all agree getting out of bed can be dangerous. Everywhere you go you expose yourself to risks. Visitors to the fort should expect potentially semi-hazardous conditions and behave accordingly. Anyone who behaves recklessly should be removed from the property before they have a chance to injure themselves, if injury is problematic for the state or the park in some regard. I have been going to the fort since I was a young boy, it is a place of great joy for me. I have seen it grow and change over the years as I have grown and changed with it. I've had a scrape or two but nothing serious, nothing which I would consider an injury. Being an avid visitor, I've admittedly climbed up on the edge where I shouldn't have been. It most often takes effort to put oneself in danger and I, nor anyone I have ever encountered have felt nervous, or in danger when exploring the grounds. Even my aging grandmother seems to feel perfectly safe slowly strolling around. I understand there are high walls and places where injury is possible, but thousands and thousands of people of all ages and conditions visit the fort every year to come and marvel at its historic beauty and revel in its significance. If we change it, if we take away from its appeal, we also take away from the experience, from the joy people feel. When they walk away and go home for the night to recant their experience, instead of saying "wow, wasn't that a great view of the bay and of Bucksport and all the various fishing vessels" they'll say "that 4 foot high, quarter mile long steel fence was really grey colored." According to the Friends of Fort Knox they have talked to many people in the public, the people who's continued visitation of the fort provide the capital to keep it maintained, and those people are "not happy" about the planned additions. However, according to Skip Varney, the director of Engineering and Real Property for the state Bureau of Parks and Lands "people have been very supportive of the fence". Personally, I am inclined to believe the people who volunteered their time and money to preserve the fort for future generations and not the agency who is presumably most worried about potentially protecting itself from liability. Also, the Friends have said that they feel as though they do not have the ability to have meaningful input on the project, which is concerning to me. These people, the people who basically are solely responsible for the forts continued maintenance (the state owns it, but since the early 2000's has left the running, upkeep and restoration of the fort to the friends, until now), have no say in what happens to the historic landmark they so treasure and protect. This non-profit group, who have spent their own money and time so that we might all enjoy this wonderful place, are basically being told "thanks for all your help, but we don't care about you." I'm not a member of the Friends, but even my sensibilities are offended. I do not deny the fort is potentially dangerous, and if it is found to be too dangerous to visit without some sort of change (a position I cannot agree with) I believe there has to be a better solution than fencing it in with a massively tall 1800 foot long steel serpentine beast. Perhaps deliver a short and mandatory educational lecture to all visitors explaining the few potentially dangerous areas of the fort? If some sort of psychical barrier is absolutely required perhaps add some old timey looking chain fences similar to those which are already there, those which sit on top of the walls inside the courtyard. Adding a massive galvanized fence is going to change its aesthetic completely, its going to take away from the pristine historical look of the fort that it has taken so long to achieve.
If the Mona-Lisa's smile faded a small degree and somehow began to look slightly like a frown and it upset a few people would you repaint the mouth? Absolutely not. It is our duty to preserve history and the fort so that future generations can see first hand where we come from, what our forefathers accomplished, how they lived, and how they prepared to defend those lively-hoods. It is history people can touch, history they can hear upon the winds as it rushes unhindered through, around and over the majestic granite complex. It is one of those rare pieces of history you can be a part of, in every sort of way. The state said they'd "take pictures of the fort as it is before the fence is built so that future generations can see what it was like". Lets not reduce it to that. Let us not approve by way of inaction this apparently vast transformation of such a large, important and intriguing historic landmark. It is extremely important to keep historical places as close to their intended design and purpose as possible, otherwise, they cease to be history. Do we really want to destroy decades of painstaking reconstruction and restoration by hastily slapping a massive, unneeded eyesoreon top such a natural organic structure? A structure that belongs to all of us? Please, please sign this petition to preserve this wonderful place, fence free, for generations to come. Your children will thank you when you take them there and they see a fort and not a prison.
We hereby wish to oppose the construction of the currently planned galvanized steel fence and the planting of shrubs at Fort Knox historic site as is planned by the Maine State Bureau of Parks and Lands.