Because of its historical importance, Fort Ancient was purchased by the state of Ohio in 1891 and became Ohio's first state park. Fort Ancient is part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks system that cover a wide area of Ohio. The Hopewell Mounds, including Fort Ancient, is one of 14 sites nominated in January 2008 by the Department of Interior for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
Concerns about the site have been raised by local groups and the American Indian community because of recent news reports about state budget cuts that have forced the site to be open to the public fewer days.
Jack Blosser, an archeologist and site manager at Fort Ancient, confirmed with the Manataka Smoke Signal News that serious budget cuts are causing problems with public access and the number of hours and days the site is open to the public. "We were forced to cut back on employee hours and reduce the number of open days because our budget was cut by 12-15% this year and future budget cuts will make it difficult to keep the facilities open as much as we would like."
The actual shortfall in state funding amounts to over $175,000 for Fort Ancient alone.
"We absolutely will never sell Fort Ancient to private developers. The preservation of this site is far too important and we are committed to maintaining all aspects of this site," Blosser told the Smoke Signal News.
"The artifacts will remain in the museum. The site will be open during daylight hours and educational tours will continue by appointment. We will make adjustments necessary to staffing and hours, but our goal is to increase public access, not diminish it," said Blosser.
Blosser said there is a strong effort underway by the Ohio Historical Society to enlist community partnerships with nonprofit organizations who will maintain the educational, operational and maintenance functions. It is hoped that community partners can be found who will increase the hours of operation and provide more activities and educational programs.
In a March 5, 2009 media release the Ohio Historical Society said it was seeking additional state support and local management partners to keep historic sites open. 29 sites out of 59 historic sites are currently operated through local partnership agreements between the Society and a local organization or government entity. In such agreements, daily operations are performed by the local partner while the Society provides support services in the form of marketing-communications, maintenance, curatorial and fund raising. Managed partnered sites typically receive an annual subsidy and keep income from admission, store sales and facility rentals.
Executive Director and CEO Bill Laidlaw of the Ohio Historical Society said, "We will focus on collections and sites preservation, access for research and education, and statewide outreach-three core areas to create a new foundation from which the organization can grow and thrive," Laidlaw said. "These services will provide the strongest return on investment for state dollars and will provide the greatest public value for Ohioans."
trying our best to keep these 18 sites open,"
Laidlaw said. "In general, they are the largest and
most significant historic sites that we manage on
behalf of the state. An additional $1.2 million
would allow more time for the Society to seek out
partners to assume the day-to-day responsibilities
for managing these sites. Discussions are underway
in many of these communities, but potential
partnership arrangements take time and financial
resources to develop."
The affected sites are located throughout the state: Adena Mansion & Gardens in Chillicothe, Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta; Campus Martius Museum and Ohio River Museum in Marietta; Dunbar House in Dayton; Flint Ridge near Brownsville; Fort Ancient near Oregonia; Fort Hill near Hillsboro; Fort Laurens in New Philadelphia; Fort Meigs in Perrysburg; Harding Home in Marion; National Road/Zane Grey Museum near Norwich; Newark Earthworks in Newark and Heath; Piqua Historical Area in Piqua; Serpent Mound near Peebles; Wahkeena near Lancaster; Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor in Youngstown; and Zoar Village in Zoar.
The citizens of Ohio are starting to get involved in the effort to save the historic sites. An online petition campaign started on March 18 calls on the "Ohio State Representatives and State Senators to allocate additional funding to allow Fort Ancient Historical Site to stay open. The closing of this site is a loss to Native Americans and the public interested in learning about the Native American culture and heritage."
According to Kim Schuette, a media specialist with the Ohio Historical Society said a good way for people to help is to actually visit the historic sites. "The shortfall in funding can be significantly eased by people who do not want to see a reduction of public access at Fort Ancient and other sites is to come for a visit."