New Study Reveals Major Threat to Fort Necessity

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 23, 2004
Contact:   Lindsay Strug, NPCA, 202-223-6722 x 232
Joy Oakes, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, NPCA, 202-454-3386, 202-329-6815 (cell)


New Study Reveals Major Threat to Fort Necessity

Washington, D.C. - On the eve of the 250th anniversary of the start of the French and Indian War, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a report revealing that Fort Necessity National Battlefield in southwestern Pennsylvania is suffering from a $500,000 annual budget shortfall, perpetuating a $3.2 million backlog in deferred maintenance and impacting the experiences of visitors this summer.

"Fort Necessity is an important part of our nation's history, and unless we take immediate action, parts of this historic site may be damaged beyond repair," said Joy Oakes, NPCA's Mid Atlantic Regional Director.

The park's fiscal year 2004 operating budget is $1.2 million. According to the NPCA's new State of the Parks ® report, this is at least $500,000 less than the park needs to perform daily operations. Even basic maintenance tasks such as replacing a roof can't be performed because of insufficient funding, leading to a deferred maintenance backlog of $3.2 million. Nearly half of the battlefield's 30 historic structures are in poor or fair condition. There is no funding to hire an archeologist to examine park sites such as Mount Washington Tavern, which some believe played a role in the Underground Railroad. Additionally, this park, an important part of American history, does not have a historian on staff. There is also not a full-time American Indian specialist on staff to serve as a liaison with the 12 associated tribes that fought in the French and Indian War, which could enrich interpretation for park visitors.

"While the good news at the park includes almost $11.5 million committed by the U.S. Congress, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and private partners for projects including a much-needed new visitor center, the critical and chronic shortfall of funding for day-to-day operations threatens the park's future," said Oakes.

Established as a national battlefield in 1935, 900-acre Fort Necessity National Battlefield protects and interprets the history and culture of the French and Indian War, which set America on its course toward independence. The battle, fought here in 1754, was the only battle in which George Washington surrendered during his entire career. Visitors to Fort Necessity can see Mount Washington Tavern, which provided food and lodging for travelers on the National Road, the first highway built entirely with federal funds.

During July 1-4, Fort Necessity is hosting a celebration commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the French and Indian War. The event features a free concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, a French and Indian War Scholars Panel, reenactments, and French and Indian War art exhibits.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks® program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a 6-month analysis, "Fort Necessity National Battlefield: A Resource Assessment" is the 14th NPCA State of the Parks report.

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