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Plan for Fort Knox Safety Fence Rankles Some
08/30/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

There's controversy on the midcoast over a plan to install new fencing at an iconic state park in Prospect. The U.S. government built Fort Knox in the mid-1800s to defend the Penobscot River valley from an attack and occupation by British naval forces.

Roughly a hundred thousand people a year tour the fort's cannon batteries, granite alleyways and exhibits. But as Jay Field reports, some park supporters worry a plan to build 18-hundred feet of new safety fencing will harm the stunning views and atmosphere that attract all those visitors.

"It looks like a little postcard shot of a quaint Maine town," said Leon Seymour as he stands just out side the Fort Knox State Park visitor's center and looks out across the Penobscot River at the church steeples, houses and buildings in downtown Bucksport. Seymour runs the group Friends of Fort Knox.

"Both in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Bucksport came under bombardment. And of course, here, we're about to enter into the fort," Seymour said.

We walk down an alleyway, out onto an open green field in the center of the fort and up a spiral granite stair case to the roof 25 feet above the parade ground below.

"As you see there's a double strand of, sort of, anchor chain here. That would be replaced, you know, with 42 inches of galvanized fence with slats in it," he said.

By the end of this week, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are expected to sign an agreement to go ahead with the fencing. It would circle the perimeter of the roof and also run along a few other areas around the parade ground below. Leon Seymour and other park supporters say the new fencing will disrupt sight lines. And they worry the public could lose access to as much as 30% of the fort. The state's Bureau of Parks and Lands did not return repeated calls and emails for comment by airtime. But in a recent interview with the Bangor Daily News, an official with the bureau said the fencing is going in to protect the public. Some visitors acknowledged the potential dangers at the site.

"It's just the chain link up there," said James Colson. "For kids, they can slip through the fence pretty easy."

Colson, who grew up in Bangor, has visited Fort Knox for years and thinks the new fence is a good idea. He's here today with his wife Holly and their two children.

"We don't go anywhere near the edge with them," Holly Colson said.

A moment after she said this, the kids have climbed the stairs to the roof.

"They're up there," she said. "See, they don't even go to the edge."

According to the story in BDN, the Bureau of Parks and Lands provided a document that claimed there had been 34 falls at Fort Knox since 1982. In the latest, a nine year old boy fell ten to fifteen feet off a wall and was transported for medical treatment by ambulance. Fourteen of the incidents, though, have involved slips on on granite steps.

"There's a certain amount of personal responsibility folks need to have. Nobody wants to see anybody injured," Seymour said. "Watch your children, keep them close."

If adults exercise basic supervision of their kids, said Leon Seymour, a fence is unnecessary.

"Even the Maine Historic Preservation Office has said this is going to have an adverse impact," Seymour said. "I mean, where do you stop? Do you go down to Camden Hills and put fencing up where you're on the mountain down there?"

Seymour said opponents of the fence have sent a letter to Maine's Congressional Delegation, asking members to intervene. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the project will cost around 500-thousand dollars. It hopes to have a contract signed to proceed with the work by the end of September.


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