PROSPECT, Maine — Fort Knox State Historic Site is on track to becoming the only privatized park in the state, if Gov. Paul LePage signs off on an agreement between the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and the nonprofit group the Friends of Fort Knox.

The state will retain full ownership of the fort, and the Friends of Fort Knox would need to run the historic site according to state park policies and procedures, according to the director of the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“This is a one-off,” Will Harris said Friday morning of the change. “This isn’t the first of a whole line of trying to privatize state parks. That’s not what our intent is.”

For several years now, the Friends of Fort Knox organization has contracted with the state to provide some services at the popular 19th century fort that overlooks the Penobscot Narrows. So far, those services include collecting admissions fees, giving interpretive tours and running the gift shop. The group also has an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation to staff the observation tower at the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. Access to the tower is through Fort Knox.

If the new agreement is finalized, the nonprofit group also will be in charge of the fort’s maintenance and operations management. Leon Seymour, executive director of the Friends of Fort Knox, will become the de facto park manager, according to Harris.

Last year, there were five state employees working at the seasonal historic site, including the manager, a ranger, an assistant ranger and two laborers. None will lose their jobs, Harris said, adding that park manager Mike Willis has been promoted to a position at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth.

Others have been reassigned, have been hired by the Friends of Fort Knox or would not have returned, Harris said.

The change in management likely would save the state about $40,000.

“One of the reasons this works is that the state will save some money,” Harris said. “It’s not the primary reason.”

He said the state has had a successful ongoing relationship with the Friends of Fort Knox.

“We’re hoping that having that local group being so intimately involved, they can increase the attendance,” Harris said.

Last year, the state split admission fees to the park 50-50 with the nonprofit group. That sum added up to about $69,000 each, Harris said. If the agreement is finalized, the Friends of Fort Knox will receive a larger share of the take. The state’s share is deposited into the General Fund.

Carol Weston, president of the Friends board, said Thursday that the new agreement would “progress” the relationship between the group and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“We’ve been working together really well,” she said. “We see this as just a continued partnership.”

It’s not the first time that there has been a move to transfer day-to-day operations of Fort Knox to the Friends group. In 2009, the Legislature rejected a bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Celli, R-Brewer, that would have done that.

Harris said that according to Maine statute, the state can lease the operations of the property with the consent of the governor and the commissioner of the Department of Conservation.

Gov. LePage is supportive of the agreement, according to his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett.

She said Friday afternoon that because the agreement has not yet been finalized, she doesn’t have a time frame for when it will be signed.

127 replies on “Deal in the works to privatize operations of Fort Knox”

  1. On the face of this it may be OK, but what happens if the “Friends” crash and burn.  What is the status of this treasure then?

      1.  Really bad things can happen when you cut loose  these historic sights.  For starters it tells you the state authorities don’t feel any sense of responsibility for protecting these sites.  In my career as a preservationist I have been slugged with so many rights that after a while you beg for a left.  This article does  not leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling as far as the state or the long term fate of the site is concerned.  I have seen local preservation groups fall apart many times.

        1. Maybe so, but I came to the area back in 91, and Fort Knox was a wreck. Broken beer bottles everywhere, trash, it was a place for local kids to party. FOF have done an amazing job of refurbishing the fort, replacing flooring in the officers quarters, and making it an enjoyable place to visit. My group holds several events there each year, and the venue is awesome!

          1.  I think I was there in 94′ and it was rough.  So I do appreciate where you are coming from.  Much better now.  Read some of the comments from pro privatization cretins scattered about on this string and you get the flip side of privatization of sensitive sites. There are potential catastrophic downsides to historical preservation by these goobers, but no more so than state neglect. Which ever way one goes it all depends on having a sufficient segment of  the population who value their history and historic sites at something approximating their true worth.  Brother no guarantees there.
            Like the marines on Wake island radioed out in Dec. 1941.   “Issue in doubt”

          2. That was the problem, the state let Fort Knox go into disrepair.  It is still the problem.  The state simply does not want to take responsibility.  We should be addressing that issue, not resolving it by giving the Fort to a private group of people regardless of how well intentioned they may be in aggregate.

      2. Grammatically this is how I interpret your response. Historically, The Friends of fort knox function like Rocky Balboa. If you have watched the 17+ rocky films you will see rocky is quite functional.

        but seriously, your poor sentence structure aside… Please provide a citation of this rocky history.

    1. We’re actually on quite solid footing.  The Friends over the years have raised funds to repair, renovate, and reopen parts of the fort previously closed off.  We care very much about keeping perhaps the best preserved fort in the country in good shape for the people of Maine and beyond who come to enjoy it.  If you would like to be part of this effort, you too can join the Friends of Fort Knox.

      1. Hi Chris.  spare me the ra ra please.  You know the road to hell and all that.  I don’t know enough about it to have any firm insight as to the best for this site.  But this article sends up many warning flags  to me on multiple levels.  What provisions are there in this agreement for the disposition of the place  if it all goes to hell in a bucket?
        I have seen all I want of historical and architectural cleansing and cultural extermination in the private sector.

      2. This is NOT ok.  The fort belongs to the people of the State, not the FOFK.  They have NO RIGHT to make this a privately run historic site.  NONE.  I agree, FOFK has done a lot of good for the fort, that does not give you the right to take it over.  It is a political ploy, and I am a proud Republican.  It is not a GOP political ploy, it is a ploy of certain individuals who want to control what goes on there and who is part of it.  This is just not OK.

        1. Betty,

          I agree..a very scary proposition when we start talking about privatizing parks or anything else that is part of the public realm.  And no question privatization has brought calamity in many of the areas it has been used. (the privatization of many military functions via Halliburton and Black Hawk for example)

          It isn’t simple.

          It isn’t risk free.

          It has to be done very carefully and with great clarity if we are going to do it at all.

          In times of budget crisis public parks are among the first places where resources disappear..shorter hours, higher fees, staff cut backs that affect maintenance etc. etc. 

          Its against that harsh reality that many many states are venturing out into this tricky terrain of public private partnership of state parks.

          Here is a story on california’s initiatives:

          http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/3/prweb9339856.htm

          Here is a web site on public private partnerships for parks in general

          http://parkprivatization.com/

          Very few of these initiatives afford the opportunity of a private partner with deep roots in the community and a clear long term commitment to the facility .

          I think the Fort has tremendous possibilities as  a venue for concerts, art shows, public celebrations, weddings, all kinds of things that could not only raise funds for maintenance and improvement of the site itself but bring a lot of customers to local businesses..hotels, B&B’s eateries, shops and other nearby historical sites. I hope all of that happens here for this site.

          1. And ghost tours, and more ghost tours, and pirate days, and more ghost tours.  Is this what this historic site should be known for?  I think not.  It should be a living history educational site with historical interpreters teaching people what life would have been like during the 19th century.

      3. Yes, FOFK has done a lot of positive repairs at the fort, however, let us not forget that the State was working in partnership and acquired some of the grants and funded projects that FOFK gives no credit to them for. 

    2. I guess the State would have to bring back the reassigned staff.. If you read the article, it appears the Friends have been running most of the operation for some time.

      1.   A tad more definitive reply  than “I guess” needs to  answer the question of the status of the place when we are all dead and gone or the amity and cooperation of the “Friends” is dead and gone, whichever comes first. 

  2. Having worked for 2 summers at the Fort, I hope this turns out well and that the history of the fort is preserved.  

  3. State Parks are owned by the people of Maine and should the kept totally in the states keep. The road to privitization is a steep slippery downhill slope we do not need to go down. Keep all State property public. The private sector has no legimate business here.

  4. The money they have charged to get in that place seems to me the state will be losing in the long run

    1. Do you know what would be good about privatized roads? The money that you pay in tolls actually gets used to maintain the roads, that way I don’t have to seasonally replace the struts on my vehicle.

        1. Well as you know, profits are evil, and anyone who wants to make profits is also evil That being said, whatever money needs to be spent on roads will be spent on the roads, whatever is left over will be “profits’. Which, despite popular belief, the profits only “line the pockets” of the owners if they decide to use the profits to pay dividends which doesn’t really happen that often, otherwise the money is reinvested or saved. 

  5. Having been a longtime contributor to the Friends and seeing the millions of dollars that they have directed into Fort preservation, I have no worries that the site won’t be well cared for.

    1. I am not an employee of the state and do not have union membership.  I think you are full of it sir and just trying to do exactly what you accuse others of doing.  How GOP of you.

      1. hasn’t a clue seems to have edited his/her comment so that mine no longer is a suitable response. Hmmmm.

        Hasn’taclue, this is not about whether or not the FOFK will maintain the condition of Fort Knox.  It is about ownership and the responsibility of our state to maintain and administer our collectively owned public property and heritage.

    2. It’s not the site being well cared for that we are worried about, Leon.  It’s the fact that the site belongs to the people of Maine not to the FOFK.  You people don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about history.  All you care about is making money with your paranormal ghost crap and keeping the profits and making sure you all have TOTAL CONTROL over matters of the fort and who you allow to take part in events and who you shut out.  

  6. Will Gov Le Page also follow this philanthropic example and “volunteerise” his well-paid State position and do it for nowt-a-yard? Nope, not a chance at all. He’s in it for the $$$s, and plenty of em too  :-(

    Sure the State ain’t doin this for the money. Now children are you all sitting comfortably then I’m begin with another fairy story … Once Upon A Time … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  7. Maine Public Lands belong to Maine People so lets keep contol of Fort Knox, We the people should have a say in this not just people in Augusta !
    Maine has many parcels of land they should be managing, why turn it over to others to make a profit !

    1. Lester,

      The whole trick to public private partnerships is the language protecting the the public interest.
      Most of New York City’s really exquisite public parks and plazas are privately ownd and maintained..the result of negotiated zoning bonuses.  It’s amazing how lushly and beautifully they are planted and how clean and well mainatained they are. 

      When a community “adopts” a public park or historic place it is almost always a good thing bringing lots annd lots of volunteers who work hard to keep it beautiful and to keep it public.

      By all accounts local interest is what has brought Fort Knox back from an abandoned relic to a place people enjoy visiting. FOFN by all accounts has been a sort of co-manager for a while.  Maybe people who are concerned should ask to to see the details of the agreement and if  anything baout it limits public access or allows unbecoming actvities..it’s a contract..it can be ammended.

      I would be shocked too if the State just up and announced the Fort had been franchised to a theme park developer with no local roots  and hope the governor would not be foolish enough to be thinking about franchising all state parks without a lot of public input that insures protection of the public interest. 

      1. I am shocked by nothing GOP driven politics does to the American citizen.  Oh, and lets not forget the “power” angle.

        Let’s go back to fundamentals. Why does the FOFK want to own Fort Knox? Yes own. In all but the property deed they will “own” the Fort.

        1. Well that’s exactly how the state is planning to build the east west highway and so much more is at stake there. I must say I don’t understand the ready acceptance of the idea of private “de facto” ownership of a public road and the obvious non acceptance of this same idea applied to Fort Knox.

          I have been writing for weeks and weeks and weeks trying to get people to understand and talk about the public policy pubic interest issues of privatizing an entire roadway for 50 years.

          The cenral issue in all public private partnerships which as you corrcetly note effectively transfers control of what has always been public to a private party by contract is whether a private interest can be trusted to always safeguard the public interest. So obviously the creteria for selecting vendors is key. A clear rfp is key. a very very very well written contract is key.

          The answer to that lies in the existence of a clear tie and clear commitment and clear stake in the surrounding community. Bringing in total outsiders would be a disaster. How it is done also makes a big difference.

          It might have been wiser for the state to put out an RFP on a public private partnership for the Fort withwith lots of public review and inpt and the public interest requirements clearly defined..still a “state park” with all the public benefits, valid passes etc., uses suitable to the history and nature of the park..whatever..

          It is not too late..juts ecause the deal has been signed doesn;t meann it can’t be unsigned. You could still insist that it be done that way.

          It’s not over. it’s not out of your control.

      2.  first of all, in your last paragraph, you say “…hope the governor would not be foolish enough to be thinking…” I don’t put anything too foolish to be passed by this governor. That said, I don’t see the problem with having FOFK run the park. I remember when the fort was an unguarded hulk with no accommodations for visitors. You just sort of wandered around inside an empty derelict hulk. Last visit was much more enjoyable, and the people I interacted with were volunteers.

        There should be a sunset provision, and the group should have to show some depth (numbers). Sometimes these deals are fine when they start, but interest wanes, and the group dwindles to a few individuals who end up hanging on to responsibilities they cannot fill.

        I think a Bucksport area group, duly constituted, will probably do a better job than a financially strapped state with the running of this imposing fort. With a sunset provision (say, 10 years), the state would have to look how things are going from time to time.

        I think that this is one of those instances where the black hearts of some of the proponents (politicians who have little value otherwise from where I sit) can lead to good.

        Again, a local group of motivated volunteers would probably be better than a state that would look to cut everything to the bones.

        1. Acountian,

          Thank you for your wisdom and good will. I agree with you completely that privatization of a small public park embedded in the local community must arise from and be deeply rooted in the local community. I am a totaloutsider on this but it was my u derstanding and impression that the FOFK group had made quitae a large voluntary donation to imporvement the facility and to making it a place people now want to visit and enjoy visiting. If that is the case I think it is very laudable that they are now willing to take that on in a more more formal co management commitment..a big step

      1. Non-profit status means crap Poulin and you know it.  First there are salaries and wages.  Even non-profits can pay good salaries.  Look at Jackson Labs!  Then there is the political side of  things.  In the last 6-7 years there have been somewhere between 6 and 10 politicians on the FOFK board.  All that ego and all that opportunity to use membership as a statement to impress.  When I have a few minutes to waste I’ll write up a list and publish it here.  Finally there is the Power angle.  I know almost every one of the people on the FOFK board, former and current, as well as the managing director Mr. Leon Seymour.  He, they, thrive on power.  To most of us such minimal power in the world would seem trite, silly to consider.  To these people it is what they live for.  Kind of sad really.

          1. Don’t make a profit?  Give me a break.  That’s why they want control, to get the money from planned events.  Guess they don’t realize just how many people they are ticking off here and how many won’t attend those events.  

      2. So is the Red Cross.  Ever seen one of their blood processing centers?  Non profit because the profits are eaten up by execs.

  8. This is WRONG WRONG WRONG.  Fort Knox is not private.  It is a state historic site, our historic site, owned by the citizens of Maine.  It is the obligation of the state to administer and fund the upkeep of our public properties including Fort Knox.  It’s all well and good that a “friends” group helped out but this property belongs to all of us, not the FOFK!  This move has been, and is, powered by a bunch of failed GOP politicians including current FOFK president Carol Weston.  For starters, this has been and continues to be, Michael Celli’s signature bill in the legislature.  He wants it bad and petitioned Governor Baldacci to make LD 509 law by executive order  He did this after his own colleagues in the House didn’t support the bill.  Get this, even the co-sponsors didn’t support LD 509 after they learned what it entailed.  To his credit, Governor Baldacci refused to make the bill into law.  We’ve got to remember that Representative Celli is a republican and as such supports the GOP effort to privatize everything public.  Carol Weston, another (former) republican legislator was involved in the committee which reviewed and subsequently rejected LD 509 and now, here she is pushing it down the throats of Maine citizens.  There’s more.  Now we have Mr. Tim Hall on the board of the FOFK.  He worked for the Bureau of Parks and Lands and actually helped write the original report against LD 509.  Now, all of a sudden, he supports it?  Then we have another FOFK director and former president Mr. Chris Popper.  The last time Rep Celli tried to pull this crap Mr. Popper would not publicly support the idea.  Now he does?  This is all about politics and a play for power.  It has nothing to do with what is right for Fort Knox or the citizens of Maine.  This is plain WRONG WRONG WRONG.

    So, what’s next.  Let me make some “informed” predictions.  Corporate sponsorship, thats what.  So when we go to visit our marvelous heritage site there’ll be a nice big sign saying “Fort Knox, brought to you by XYZ Corporation”  There will be smaller banners proclaiming corporate sponsorship did this for the fort and that for the fort and that in the end the corporations are doing you a favor.  Then McFastFood moves in and opens a restaurant.  Then the Bank of Amerika holds an employee’s weekend at the fort which will, unfortunately, be closed to the public during the event.  Then, eventually, the naming rights will be up for sale.  Picture this on the entrance sign, “CianbroMac Fort Knox”  and in subscript below there will be some BS line saying how CianbroMac saved the Fort for Mainers.  Think I am wrong about this?  Leon Seymour already did this many years ago but in a much smaller way when businesses and contributors could have little signs put up around the Fort for making donations of a minimum denomination.

    This must be stopped.  I urge all Maine citizens to write their representatives and tell them that Fort Knox must remain in the public domain.  That it is incumbent upon the state to administer our public properties, our heritage, and the pride of Maine.

      1. Lets not start name calling or are you too intellectually challenged to do better than that?  How about you come up with a good argument that justifies giving Fort Knox to a group of private citizens?  Say, there’s a good question, why does the FOFK want complete ownership of the Fort (in all but holding the actual deed)?  They don’t need to own the place to contribute their time and money. And pleeeeeeeeeeease don’t give me some crap about being patriotic.

        1. Because they want control over everything that goes on there and who is involved in those events….and all the money that comes in with those events.  That’s why they want control. They don’t care about history or the site itself, it is a power trip, period.

    1. I agree that a condition of the agreement should be to mainatin “decorum” befitting a historic site.  The Fort wasn’t sold..it is still owned by the people of Maine…it is a formalization of a de facto partnership in its management that has existed with Friends of Fort Knox.

      1. Decorum? de facto?  You sound like the attorney Celli used to oust the former FOFK board back a few years ago.

        Regardless, you can use all the fancy or abusive words you like but in the end the Fort is being given to the FOFK and it is wrong wrong wrong.

        1. You obviously have a very deep history here annd lots of knowledge about it..and there must be others as well. Contracats can be changed and ammendedor even canceled..sit down with the State, FOFK nd get all the details and if you are not convinced the public interests is adequatey safeguarded or that something has happened here that is a bad precedent for other state parks..sprak up..let everyone know..you will have lots of support and chances are you will succeed.

          I only “drive trough” Bucksport and Verona and only now and then. But some of my gusts here have stopped in there and at the observation deck and I was getting the impression these two features are a possble anchor from which much more can be built.

          I do believe very strongly that energized local communities are much more effective than state government or federal government in bringing these possibilities to life.

    2. This is a very slippery slope and I don’t care what they say. This is the beginning of something WRONG!!!!!!!!

  9. “Last year, the state split admission fees to the park 50-50 with the
    nonprofit group. That sum added up to about $69,000 each, Harris said.
    If the agreement is finalized, the Friends of Fort Knox will receive a
    larger share of the take. The state’s share is deposited into the
    General Fund.”

    With all the events they do and the admission prices every day and there only making $69,000 each? Rubbish. Non-profit? I’m not a CPA but it sounds like someone should call the IRS.

  10. Let it go.  The fort was obsolete before it was finished and not one single military action ever occrued there.  It was used for training for the Spanish-American war, but really nothing since.

    This fort and all the coastal forts built in the early to mid 19th century were built to re-fight the War of 1812.  The stonework is interesting, but that’s the only historical value it offers. 

    1.  Your appreciation of this site is timid, tepid, and torpid.  Whatever floats your boat in this life, it sure  isn’t fabulous, irreplaceable, history.  Have a glass of hot milk and go to bed.

      1. Please enlighted all of us and tell what this fort and for that matter any of the coastal forts built after the War of 1812 ever did.  Other than guard some POW’s from the Civil War and training camps – nothing! 

        Like so many other wars, this fort was fought to fight the “last” war.  The stonework is fantastic, but that’s all it offers.  It does not compare to the naval engagement fought in the Penobscot in the Revolution close to Bangor.  That deserves the respect this pile of old granite blocks gets.

        1. These historic sites enable us to take a glimpse into the past and connect with our ancestors. Fort Knox, in particular, reminds us of just how important Bangor was to the nation back then.

          1. I think it has more to do with proximity than history.  It’s close by and easy to get to for a day trip.  Sad truth is nothing happened at this fort and the Army abandoned it in the 1920’s. 

            A fort everyone should visit is McHenry in Baltimore.  It’s historic and something really happened there.  I respect that people like to visit Fort Knox, but it was in the 1840’s – 1860’s to fight the War of 1812 and to battle wooden ships, not ironclads.

          2.  According to  you the fort has no historical meaning or value.  Its not  realistic to expect to change your mind in this venue.  But your views do have value as an example of the direful poverty of understanding and imagination preservationists have to contend with every day in every place in the struggle to keep faith with past and future generations.

          3. Sorry we’re in a dispute, but let’s at least agree to disagree. 

            The fort has no historical value.  Nothing happened there!  It never defended the river or Bangor. 
            In fact, construction was never even completed.  It was a bad idea to fight the last war and was obsolete even before it was built.  It’s weapons were designed to fight wooden ships. 

            It seems like it’s most useful function is to host Civil War re-enactors, which is another gross distortion of history. 

            I love history and can go toe-to-toe with anyone without having to Google the answer, but let’s focus on sites that “actually” contributed something.

            I won’t change your mind or you mine.  Let’s leave it that.

          4. So that fort gives us no insight into what life was like back in the 1800s? It tells us nothing of Maine’s value in Britain’s boundary dispute with us?

            There can be no greater document of our history than a well-maintained structure that has survived the elements for almost 200 years.

            If you truly loved history, you would understand the value of preserving the fort.

          5. Sir/Ma’am, ”
             Civil War re-enactors, which is another gross distortion of history. ”

            I believe you are not taking into consideration that a number of Mainers are unable to afford to travel to actual Historic sites where battles actually occurred. Fort Knox is not only a gem for Maine, but provides the proper venue for History to be told. The opportunity for a child to “see” history is a valuable tool to teach them. Did a battle ever take place at Fort Knox? No. But were Mainers able to talk with historians to learn what happened elsewhere and what could have happened at Fort Knox? Yes. If any reenactor stated that the battle actually happened at Fort Knox, they were not in line with the intentions of the activities there. My experience has been that reenactors are pretty up front with saying no battle ever took place there. I am not only referring to those reenactors I see there yearly, but also the hundreds who came from out of state in 2010 to support the fort and give a larger than life idea of what ‘could’ have happened if the war had indeed come this far North. 

          6. Fort Knox was built specifically to protect Bangor and its lumber industry. In 1779, the Britsh chased the U.S. Navy up the Penobscot to Hampden. In 1814, the British came back, this time entering the city and occupying it.

            We were not going to let something like that happen again, so we built Fort Knox.

            If bloodshed were a requirement to make a site historical, we might as well forget our past altogether.

          7. Just existing does not give it value.  Nothing happened at this fort.  It was obsolete when they broke ground and all the emotion given it to due to a mistake.  It should never have been built and now we treat it like was an important part of history.

            So, to get back on topic: the FOFK have done a great job restoring, so give it to them.  They’ll take care of it and can enjoy their hobby. 

            BTW: no offense intended, but it was not the US Navy in 1779.  It was a fleet of about 20 vessels assembled by Massachusetts and among its commanders was Paul Revere.   The US Navy did not exist at that time.

        2.  Another old saying seems to have been crafted with the likes of you in mind..  “There is none so blind as those who will not see”

    1. No gold? I wonder what the FOFK board members are paid. Are’nt they made up of ex politicians and an ex employee from upper management from the parks department? Do they under pay the laborers?  I’m sure they won’t raise admission prices to their “non-profiting” Wake up we are being played. 

      1. Leon thinks he’s pretty clever.  I’d go with the former, the orchestrated media strategy theory.  The last time there was a rift with Leon, Mr. Celli saw it as an opportunity to take control of the FOFK and found an attorney to work for him pro bono.  Celli won but as it turned out, in my opinion, the new group was no better than the old group.  In fact, a great many of the original group of new Directors became disillusioned under Celli’s leadership and quit in disgust within the first few months.  The few who remained were/are easily manipulated and blessed Mr. Celli’s every whim.

  11. This is totally wrong.  I have a feeling that this isn’t the last time we will be seeing this sort of event under our Governor’s term.  LePage’s endorsement of this transaction proves that he is pushing towards the privatization of what he considers non-essential government functions.

    You see, in his mind he probably associates State Parks with environmentalists, a majority of whom vote Democrat.  Republican hunters and gun owners can’t hunt in State parks, so it’s a waste of space for him.  If it’s associated with Democrats, he will try to find a way to destroy it.  That’s just how his blind, Tea Party fed, neo-conservative mind works.

    Personally, I would rather not see corporate endorsements on huge billboards throughout our parks.  That’s just me.  However, if we continue to allow LePage to outsource all of our State government to small time operations, we will lose our tourist industry, and everything else along with it.

  12. A question to ponder: The fort will still be “owned” by the State, but run by FOFK.  So, will Season Maine State Park Passes be valid here?  The Passport program of the last couple of years since the 75th anniversary was great!  Will Fort Knox still be listed on the program? 
    I can attest that FOFK would do well to focus on living history demonstrations like the reenactments and the oven baking at the Fort.   Battle at Fort Knox 2010 brought record numbers of people to the Fort, in keeping with educating people about what life back then.

    1. Yes, but FOFK didn’t bring Battle at Fort Knox to the fort AND took the event from those who did.

      1. Wasn’t Michael Celli disenfranchised from the group that DID bring the first re-enactments to the Fort?  Is that ironic or what?

        1. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Celli is still a member of the 20th ME reenacting group. 


    2. “We’re hoping that having that local group being so intimately involved, they can increase the attendance,” Harris said.”…… the FOFK have been involved all along, just not supportive of actual historical activities. The above mentioned activities proved that having historical events brings in the crowds.  Mr. Harris needs to look at the attendance records.  Alienating the people who brought the large crowds in is contradictory to his statement. 

  13. What a shame!  I’ve seen it coming, tho, with those “events” like the paranormal paranoia faire and the haunted house.  What a sham!  Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  Let’s just edit all of the history books and erase the Civil War right out and call it a “disagreement”.  For shame!!  I bet if the civil war re-enactors ran it, it would really be something!  I loved going in and talking to the soldiers and that nice lady in the bakery!  Maybe they could run it like Gettysburg and have people in period clothing leading the tours!  I’d pay 7 bucks for something like that!
    Is it too late for a people’s referendum reversing this underhanded decision???

    1. It is my understanding that the folks who brought Battle At Fort Knox as well as supported Miss Rose in the bakery had just that plan in mind….bring living history to the fort. They even spoke with Tom Desjardin about the potential there. It was refused by FOFK.  FOFK also took control over what was to be the second Battle At Fort Knox that these hard working VOLUNTEERS were already planning. An interesting note, those who planned and executed Battle At Fort Knox were not only VOLUNTEERS, but also paid a registration fee to cover costs of the event. Save the three port-o-lets FOFK contributed.  And, that “nice lady”, Miss Rose did all of her work there as a volunteer as well. 

      1. Thank-you for your kind words of support. Yes, those who
        planned and executed BAFK2010 were more than willing to work WITH FOFK to bring
        BAFK2012  to the fort. FOFK refused and “took”
        control of our event. We were told to “find another venue”.  So, we did. We will be presenting this year’s
        Civil War event at Good Will Hinckley August 24-26. The same weekend we had
        originally planned to present it at Fort Knox.  

    2. Actually Representative Celli is or was part of the Civil War re-enactment group and he is the driving force behind privatizing the Fort.  So that connection doesn’t guarantee anything but exploitation and an ego fueled sense of personal glory.  Hey, from when I knew the man that kind of describes Celli pretty well actually.

      Want to keep the Fort in the hands of Maine citizens?  Email the Governor, email your representative, and continue to protest this heinous act of theft.

      1. Mr. Celli is not part of the group of folks who worked to bring Battle At Fort Knox nor support the oven demonstrations at Fort Knox. This is a different group of folks who wished to bring more historical events to the fort, but were targets of negativity by Mr. Seymore and subsequently FOFK. Mr. Seymore’s focus with regard to History is only to have cannon fire because they bring in spectators. (an interesting note, the 6th ME Battery is paid to be at the fort, none of the other civil war reenactors are. The “commander”  of the 6th ME Battery was also recently been added to the FOFK BOD). 

          1. You are welcome. Another for consideration. “Fright Night” was originally an activity held by the aforementioned Reenactment group Mr. Celli belongs to, The 20th ME. They did not charge a fee. It was held during the day and proved to draw large numbers. Enter FOFK. The 20th ME was to then “haunt the fort” and the activity, to some in the 20th ME’s chagrin, became Leon’s pet project. Seems “history is repeating itself” with the taking over of the highly successful Battle At Fort Knox. 

    3. Yes, but, that is the problem, the people in FOFK don’t want living historians.  They want things done their way, not the historical way.  They want the profits in their pockets, they want total control of ALL events at the fort.  And who takes part in those events.  

  14. Dreadful lack of reading comprehension skills being demonstrated by the naysayers. 

    What part of “The state will retain full ownership of the fort” do you not get? 

    This is a good financial arrangement for all parties and the state retains ownership.   If FOFK doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain, the state still owns the fort and can reclaim management responsibilities. 

    1. It is always harder to take back that which you have given away.

      Talk about a lack of comprehension.  Your statement is adolescent in nature.  How old are you anyway?

  15. My best wishes to Friends of Fort Knox who have done a wonderful job creating events and attractions there and who realized that what’s good for the Fort is good for the Bucksport Waterfront and the local economy.  More vistors = more money=more jobs. This is an excellent use of public private parnership.

  16. As a child I spent many hours playing at Fort Knox.  My grandfather was the park manager in the 70’s (don’t remember the exact years)  He and my grandmother lived in the farmhouse across the street. He and his crew worked hard to keep that park looking beautiful.  He was a very proud Park Manager! to be the position to care for this historic site..he loved his job and took it very seriously.  I think we would be turning over in his grave to hear this…This park belongs to the people of Maine, not a private organization!

  17. As a child I spent many hours playing at Fort Knox. My grandfather was the park manager in the 70’s (don’t remember the exact years) He and my grandmother lived in the farmhouse across the street. He and his crew worked hard to keep that park looking beautiful. He was a very proud Park Manager! to be the position to care for this historic site..he loved his job and took it very seriously. I think we would be turning over in his grave to hear this…This park belongs to the people of Maine, not a private organization!

  18. BDN in your followup article could you please post the salaries of the board members of this so called “non-profit” and maybe a job description of what they do to.
    And get an answer to why the department of parks can’t run this place without them and keep the “non-profits”.

    1.  Could someone, like the BDN reporter,  READ the contract and enlighten us as to what exactly is in the contract? I also agree with stopgougingme. Residents need to know how much money was generated at the park in past years under the FOFK and how much was provided to the organization.  I, too, would like to know the salaries of the board members.   

  19. What a sad day for the Mainers.  Friends groups are created to “support” operations, not to take over operations.  Over the years the Friends have been instrumental in raising money to help save the structures at Fort Knox, but they have had a rocky road within the organization.  They have obviously found this is a money maker, otherwise they wouldn’t be pushing to take it over.  The events they hold are making our historic site become more and more like a Disney World. Reenactments are appropriate, but what about all of the other activities and what controls will there be?  Can they set admission fees?  Will regular Mainers be able to afford visiting their historic site?  How much more money, outside of admission fees,  have the Friends made by holding these events?  The state says it is only losing $40,000, but didn’t say if the fort runs in the black or red.  Why can’t the state hold event to bring money into the general fund?  There are too many questions and not enough answers.  What happened to investigative reporting?  Politics, the way of the state and world. So much for heritage.

    1. How about if we let private enterprise build a road through the State and let them sieze any land they need and run it for a profit? “oh wait., that’s done deal too”  Someone is padding that new reelection campaign fund!

  20. Here we have yet another GOP style solution to the problem of public lands.  It is a stated doctrine of the GOP party to absolve government of property ownership.  Their answer is to sell or give away everything the citizens of Maine, of America, own.  LePige is an avid follower of this doctrine.  We recently read that he is giving Cianbro a swath of land across our state, thousands of acres, so that they can build a private highway and charge Mainers for the privilege of driving on their own property.  Heck, Maine is even paying for the study to help Cianbro.  Now we have the Governor LePige giving Fort Knox to a private group.  This whole concept of giving away America to the corporations, for profit and non-profit alike, is one of my fundamental issues against the Republican party.

  21. How is this not a good thing.  FOFK have taken the same budgets the state had redone how the park is maintained and saved $40k which will go back into some badly needed TLC. 

  22. Well, if they load up one of those Rodman guns and hold the Bucksport mill to ransom, I say we take the place back.

  23. As one who has been visiting Fort Knox since the 60’s (along with other personal favorites like Lake  St. George, Reid and Popham Beach State Parks) I have seen the presence of the Friends as a positive influence….the fort was in a rather sad state of disrepair back when the BPL was the sole guardian of the fort….with much of the fort closed to the public for safety reasons.  Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Friends (in partnership with the BPL) there is more of the fort open to the public during the summer season than has been for quite some time.  In visiting the Friends Website, fortknox.maineguide.com and checking on their restoration projects…it appears as though they have raised 100’s of thousands of dollars for fort restoration….if this partnership works and saves the state money….what is the problem?

  24. I agree with WatchdogMe! Every Maine resident owns this piece of property, it is our heritage.  If this come to fruition, FOFK can charge whatever they want as an entry fee. School children have been allowed free entry into the fort and I bet the FOFK will change that soon. This makes me sick and if we don’t watch out, the fort will be sneakily turned over to the “friends” as a gift when our backs are turned.

    1. According to the article “Friends of Fort Knox would need to run the historic site according to state park policies and procedures, according to the director of the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.”….I believe that means that the admission policy/prices would remain unchanged as would the admission policy for school groups…but then again, I haven’t read the “agreement”

      1. Gerald, I have not seen the final wording as of yet. It is my understanding FOFK requested that the “policies and procedures” be reworded as “guidelines” for them to follow. If this happened, you do the math.

  25. Maybe they can rent it to Wheelock Rides and they can put a Ferris Wheel in the courtyard!  Who’s sick idea is this?  Oh wait a minute.  Yup that was a foolish question.  It fits the pattern.  Business talks and everyone else walks. Anyone want to sign up for the popcorn consession?

    1. With respect to your mention of the $$ needed for the “added responsibility of upkeep, security, etc.” the article does mention that  “If the agreement is finalized, the Friends of Fort Knox will receive a larger share of the take.”   I would expect (and hope) that the number crunchers on both sides see this additional income as sufficient to cover these additional responsibilities.

    2. Thanks for that guidestar website…very interesting..just registered so I could see what you were referring to.   When I looked back at the 2009 and 2008 data it appears as though there were surpluses in both of those years.  When I went to their (FOFK)website to see what was going on in 2010 I found this info
      Fall 2010 – Friends engage a local contractor to rebuild Battery ‘B’ and adjacent demibastion retaining walls. In addition, stabilization work on the wharfs and extensive erosion control efforts were undertaken.Summer 2010 – Friends install lighting on the gatehouse to illuminate the three flagpoles. This effort allows the flags to be flown 24 hours a day and reduces thirty minutes of daily work time of park rangers.2009 to Present – Century and a Half masonry project tackles brick repointing in the ten casemate areas of the Fort. Effort includes rebuilding two casemate vents that were boarded up due to fear of falling bricks.Could it be that: grant money for some of these projects didn’t arrive until 2011 or thatthese surpluses from previous years were used to help pay for these projects??

  26. Having stayed at the fort for a number of weeks in the summer of 2010, I had the privilege of spending countless hours talking with the public. In each of my “talks” to folks, I would specifically tell them the history of the fort and that it was never garrisoned…along with the reasons why. I have to disagree that just because a shot was never fired in anger/war time, that there is no historic value. Imagine the potential change in history had the fort not been there. 

  27. Carol Weston, the president of the Friends is quoted: “We’ve been working together really well. We see this as just a continued partnership.” Yet her employee, Leon Seymour, executive director of the Friends of Fort Knox, continues to post here and elsewhere as “hasacluemaine” criticizing the state and its employees. One has to wonder if this is a poorly orchestrated media strategy or evidence of a rift in the organization just as this new arrangement begins.

  28. Save Fort Knox for the public, the people who own Fort Knox. Write to the Governor opposing this action.

  29. Yes you are right about the Directors of the FOFK.  Furthermore, many of them worked to defeat this very situation when LD 509 was submitted by Representative Celli in the last legislative session.

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