Tourists, Fort Halifax, Railroads, and Gundalows

Things seem to be cooking up in Winslow at the Fort Halifax historical site. A piece in Sunday’s Morning Sentinel describes the plan b y the Friends of Fort Halifax to improve the future of this piece of Maine’s past. Their plans include new parking, grounds and buildings. The article says Included in the group’s “master plan” are a new parking lot, entrance and welcome center, reconstructed historic buildings, new boat landings, gazebos and park benches, a 2-mile-long walking path and a riverboat offering dinner cruises. The price tag for all of this reportedly comes to about 1.5 million dollars. The piece further states that The intent is to turn the park into a year-round recreational and cultural hub.

All well and good, and I do wish these people the best of luck, but I am hoping that the historical significance of this site remains at the forefront of their vision. Too often well meaning people will take an area of great historical significance and turn it into just another amusement park in their quest to boost attendance at the site. Apparently the town and group share the idea that funding could come from some kind of a federal earmark, bad idea in my mind, and no local taxes or fundraising would be needed. My feeling is that zero dollars for these sorts of projects should come from any tax dollars at all. When people contribute of their own volition to a project they in turn become part of that project, even if in just a very small way.

By becoming part of a project you can take ownership of the project, and be proud of the outcome and more willing to provide continued support to that project. Obtaining funding from some impersonal federal grant or earmark is nothing more than taking anonymous donations from every single taxpayer in this nation. That being the case, how many of them will actually put any effort into that particular recipient project? Most people in the US have never even heard of Fort Halifax, so why should they care?

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You know, one of the things Maine has a history for is tourism, and it surprises me that more local historical societies don’t seem to want to connect to that part of Maine’s heritage by promoting themselves more. One hardly ever sees advertising for museums beyond local papers, and when you do, the museums are only open for a few hours each week, frequently at times not conducive to drawing any interest from possible visitors from away.

A Bangor Daily News article, Waterfront train proposed to Belfast councilors, tells of at least one organization, the Brooks Preservation Society, and their plans to take advantage of that heritage and try to entice more visitors to the Belfast area by enlarging the operations of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad by extending their tracks to the Belfast waterfront. Belfast is a great little community, and I hope things work out for everyone up there. By connecting the sea going and railroad histories of the area together they’ll go a long way towards improving the future outlook of preserving Belfast’s history.

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Wesget Sipu Inc. of the St. John Valley area has received a grant for the preservation of the cultural traditions of the Mic Mac and Maliseet tribes. I understand that the intent of this nonprofit group is to record the genealogies of the areas tribal population as well as collecting ephemera, pottery and other articles relating their heritage.

Speaking of grants, I also hear that the Gundalow Company received a $30,000 in funding to promote their educational program in assisting to preserve the Piscataqua Maritime Region, which extends from York down to the Hamptons in NH. The intent is to further share the educational resources in promoting the preservation of the coastal area with various historical and educational organizations such as Strawberry Banke, Museums of Old York and the Great Bay Discovery Center in NH.

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If you have something you’d like to share here regarding any of Maine’s historical or preservation organizations, please drop me a line at editor@touringmaineshistory.com. I’ll get it up as soon as I can. Happy history!

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Categories: headlines, historic buildings, historic preservation, historical societies, history, museum news, preservation, restoration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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