Fort Abercrombie Plan Draws Crowd, Raises Concerns

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Diana Gish/KMXT

Last night it was standing room only for the open house at Fort Abercrombie’s ranger station. The big plate of cookies at the door was emptied in no-time, as members of the public packed into the small room to hear about proposed changes to the State Historical Park.

District Ranger Kevin Murphy, moderated as person after person made comments and asked questions about the future of the popular park.At the heart of the controversial issue is the challenge of finding a way to address the needs of a diverse range of park users, while fulfilling the park’s primary purpose: promoting the history of the World War Two outpost.

Murphy acknowledged the importance of the park to the people of Kodiak. He also acknowledged the positive affect that Kodiak’s volunteer run Military History Museum has had on the park.

(Fort Abercrombie 1 "10-15 years ago …support that as well.")

The expanding popularity of the Military History Museum, has raised the question of how to better facilitate the growing number of museum visitors, particularly those travelling to Kodiak in large tour groups. Turning tourist buses around on the narrow park roads is considered a safety hazard that causes traffic congestion in the park during cruise ship season. Accessibility to the historical area by people with handicaps is another requirement that the park is tasked to meet. One of the proposed plans for the park is to widen the road and pave a bus turnaround area in what’s now the Miller Point campground. The idea of the parking lot is not sitting well with many of the people who use the park for recreation. Bill Oliver was one of many who spoke against what he called the introduction of a "big concrete slab."

(Fort Abercrombie 2 "An alternative exists …reconsider this plan.")

A variety of ages were represented in last night’s crowd: from a first grader to the high school cross country team and on up in years. All sharing concern and a passion for the popular site. Bill Evans is the architect working on the changes to the park. He said he wished he had had that amount of input when the design process first began.

(Fort Abercrombie 3 "and now we … make it better.")

Evans, Murphy and other parks department officials tried to assure those gathered that the comments would be studied and taken into consideration before renovation plans are finalized. The State Parks Director James King expressed his thanks to the crowd for their input. He also pointed out that the park’s citizen advisory board has been laboring over the expansion plans for over a year and a half.

(Fort Abercrombie 4 "These guys have …and evaluate them.")

Murphy repeatedly urged those present to follow up their voiced concerns by submitting written comments by the January first deadline.

Proposed changes to the park can be viewed in a document on the state’s Department of Natural Resources web page. A grass roots group called "Friends of Fort Abercrombie" has now formed on the popular social networking site "Facebook."

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