The Kodiak Military History Museum is preparing for a worst-case scenario in light of the state’s fiscal crisis. The museum is housed in Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park, and while the museum is independently owned, it may close if the state parks in Kodiak do. A closure would leave the property open, but remove the upkeep and care of its trails and facilities.
Curtis Law, who started the museum with Joe Stevens in 1999, says another option is for the museum to take over the management of the park.
“We had put our foot out in front and told the park folks when they were looking for people who might be interested in running Ft. Abercrombie, that we would like to look at it and open negotiations, but unfortunately, the folks higher up than the local parks here have taken a wait and see attitude.”
Law says they want to be on top of the situation in case the closure does happen.
He explains the museum is small with a main core of volunteers instead of staff members. He says right now, the museum’s budget is scaled for care of displays and maintenance of the bunker that contains the museum, as well as heating and humidity control. He says if the museum took over management of the park, it would get two more buildings it would need to look after.
“The main park building, of course, and the residence upstairs. And the shop bunker, which is the war reserve magazine. In addition to that, we’d also have to look at maintenance of the outhouses and the road, and those get expensive.”
He says the museum board needs to consider the cost behind that and figure out how it would automate the park’s day-use fee.
Law says he’s also aware many people are concerned about the trails.
“The museum is not going to be able to maintain the trails and things like that. We just don’t have the funds. But if the museum is able to take over the park, we would welcome any other nonprofits that would like to maintain the trail side and the natural side of that, to work together with us.”
He says one cost-saving measure they’ve taken this year is to fall back on the museum’s permanent exhibits. He says this is the first year in 17 years they haven’t had a new display.
“That was done consciously because we wanted to conserve whatever money the museum had in case it looked like we were going to be managing an entire park.”
Law says they haven’t heard any updates on a possible closure of Ft. Abercrombie, and so they’re going to move forward as usual, but Law says he’s contacted tour companies to alert them that the museum’s status may change.
Preston Kroes, the Kodiak area district ranger for Alaska State Parks, says he can’t say for sure, but the “feeling out of the main office in Anchorage” is that the three parks on the road system in Kodiak will remain open.